Front Cover of books 'Remembering Elephants', (2016) and 'Remembering Rhinos' (2017) raises funds for conservation efforts through the The Born Free Foundation to projects in Africa.
I had been thinking about doing something in conservation for a while at that point because I felt like I’d been given so much happiness by wildlife and it was only right that I gave something back. But there was a particular trigger, which was seeing a poached elephant in Northern Kenya, which made me feel utterly compelled to launch this particular project. I was so upset and impotent I decided I had to find a way to channel that emotion into something positive and proactive. By that point I had quite a few wildlife photographer friends and I started asking around if any of them would be interested in donating images to a book on elephants and every single one said yes. My ambition was to create "the most beautiful book on elephants ever made” and then sell that to both raise awareness of the plight they are facing and funds to help tackle that. I had no idea quite how successful it would turn out to be - we ended up raising more than £135,000 for our charity partner The Born Free Foundation to spend on elephant protection projects. Because of that success, I felt there had to be a follow up and Remembering Rhinos was born.
Purpose of visual communication
To be very black and white about it, I think there are two very different kinds of routes you can go to educate people through photography about conservation issues. The shocking, brutal pictures of wildlife crime certainly make people stop and think but they also, certainly on social media, turn people off. If you upset people with images then many turn away, which is the last thing we want. So my theory has been to try and draw people in through beautiful images and when you have them, introduce the underlying conservation messages in a way that engages and keeps their attention.
As I know is the case for many other wildlife photographers I meet, it hasn’t been a straight path! For twenty years I worked in marketing in the city of London, promoting big multi national brands and products which earned me a lot of money but left me increasingly dissatisfied. But If I hadn’t had that training then the conservation work now that I’m driving, would never have been as successful as it has. In terms of advice, I guess it would be once you have alighted on a cause you want to try and make a difference to, be strategic and think long term. The first book took 18 months in the planning to get right and that format is now an established template for the project going forwards and for future books. What I’d also say is try and be original and do something no-one else has done before. It is so easy just to copy when you see something else being successful but if you truly want to stand out and catch attention, go about it in a way that is new if you can.
The picture is Margot Raggett and ambassador Dan Richardson meeting 'Sudan', the last male Northern White rhino left on earth. Knowing that mankind has poached this particular species to the brink of extinction was the catalyst for me to start the Remembering Rhinos'
Hopes for the Future
One thing that I very quickly came to realise when I started seeing the funds we’d raised being used on the ground, is that such money runs out very quickly. Conservation projects need sustained, regular income if they are to succeed, not just one-off donations that come and go. For that reason I feel compelled (again) to keep this series going, because as we grow in reach and awareness each year, new people come into the franchise and want to buy the previous books. That means we can continue to generate funds from previous books in future and continue to support projects in that area. I’m thrilled for example that the reprint of Remembering Elephants (the original 2500 sold out in two months) has already generated another £10,000 which we’ve been able to send to an anti-poaching project in Mana Pools in Zimbabwe which we’d previously supported. So, my hope is that I can continue to make a success of the series because it has so much potential to do good. I feel a great weight of responsibility to get it right!