July 6, 2017 / Luxury Lifestyle

Photographer David Yarrow: Walking on the Wild Side

Viewers are invited on an intriguing—and often breathtaking—journey to meet the wildlife of African deserts, the Arctic tundra, and Japan’s formidable forests


David Yarrow lives the life of a true adventurer. The Scottish-born photographer has waded through a crocodile river to reach the Dinka cattle camp in South Sudan and has come face to face with a grizzly bear in Alaska. He’s had elephants kick his equipment as though playing soccer, and he’s been chased by rhinoceros.

Photographer David Yarrow has gone to the ends of the earth—and put himself and his camera at risk—to capture remote landscapes, compelling culture, and the world’s wildest animals. Banner image: Yarrow brought a ladder to a previously unfilmed Dinka cattle camp in Yirol, South Sudan, for <i>Mankind</i> (2015). Photograph: ©David Yarrow PhotographyFrom the vast African deserts to the frozen Arctic tundra, Yarrow captures wildlife we have all become familiar with from the comfort of our armchairs, yet still manages to surprise viewers with arresting black-and-white images that offer a unique point of view, often from the ground looking up.David Yarrow travelled to the Amboseli National Park on the Kenyan/Tanzanian border to work close to elephants as they crossed a dry lake in search of water. <i>The Circle of Life</i> captures the grace and serenity of the moment. Photograph: ©David Yarrow PhotographyDeveloping a technique
Instead of using long lenses like many other wildlife photographers, Yarrow leaves his camera on the ground—sometimes setting it in elephant dung or covering the case in Old Spice aftershave, because, for some reason, the scent attracts lions—and then activates the shutter remotely.

For <i>The King and I</i> (2016), David Yarrow placed his camera low to the ground and used a remote. “The closer the camera to the lion, the more immersive the image and the more detail we can see in the lion’s face,” Yarrow says. Photograph: ©David Yarrow PhotographyThis haphazard technique has resulted in many broken cameras, but does allow him to bring us face to face, so to speak, with his subjects, creating memorable images.

Committing to the shot
Yarrow attributes his best shots to planning and perseverance—he once spent 28 hours lying face down on a boat off the coast near Cape Town. His patience yielded an incredible shot of a great white shark emerging from the water to catch a seal.

This <i>Grumpy Monkey</i> (2013), photographed in Japan’s Jigokudani National Park, seemingly captures the animal's mood. Photograph: ©David Yarrow PhotographyThe photographer’s unusual angles can require hours of research and elaborate planning, with countless attempts before finally getting the winning shot. In fact, Yarrow is on record as saying he considers he has had a good year if he has captured three great photographs, “because for an image to transcend at every level requires a material amount of luck as well as creative courage and technical fluency.”

The Alaskan brown bear in <i>Face Off</i> (2016) fills the frame completely. Photograph: ©David Yarrow PhotographyFinding the moment
He has written: “Great photographs implicitly should be rare. They tend to be moments that can never be repeated.” Most recently, he turned his focus away from wildlife to venture into the floating slum town of Makoko in Lagos. Chest deep in some of the world’s dirtiest water, and enveloped in smoke from fires, Yarrow composed his photograph using two characters in a long boat, which he cast because he wanted to showcase “both the beauty and dignity of black West Africa.”

Exceptional detail is captured in <i>Hello</i> (2015), with David Yarrow able to get remarkably close to this polar bear on Alaska’s Barter Island. Photograph: ©David Yarrow Photography“In my mind, if a contemporary photograph is sufficiently powerful in content and evocative in light and line to be looked at for a long time, there is a chance that it has something which is art—not reportage. But there is a third variable needed to elevate an image to a higher pantheon—the dynamic of relevance. This is the most elusive of the ‘holy trinity’ of factors I strive to attain.”

In the studio with photographer Jimmy Nelson


  • Art & the Artist

Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop
is a Singapore-based journalist who has written for The New York Times, South China Morning Post, and CNN Style