The DRC 2017
The pursuit of relevance is integral to my approach to photography. I want my work to be aesthetically strong, but I also need it to inform and address contemporary issues such as conservation and climate change. As I travel across the world, I often find a misplaced sense of romanticism with regard to the African “wild” and I do occasionally feel a need to release images that challenge the notion that all is wonderful in Sub Saharan Africa.
This is not a hard ask in the DRC – where clearly all has been far from wonderful; rare species of animals have faced extinction as a result of the Civil War. If 4.5 million people lose their lives, what chance for a few older generation primates stuck up in the rainforest? This male gorilla lost his left hand to illegal poaching, but mercifully he survived. It seems inconceivable that this traumatic experience has not affected his personality and his reasoning.
For the four long minutes that the two of us spent alone together, 8,000 feet up in the dense rainforest, I was preoccupied with his own preoccupation. What on earth was going on in his mind? I think that the image is intensely evocative and indeed I shed a tear the first time I saw a print.
As the photographer, Harry Benson, once said “a good image never happens again” and I think this may be true of this image.
This jungle is vast and should he be sat on this tree trunk again, it is highly unlikely a photographer will be there to capture the moment.
It will provoke many different emotions, but I hope they are not all sad, because whilst it is a reminder of the fragility of our planet, it also serves as a poster for the glory of it. We co-habit this part of Africa with magnificent East Lowland Gorillas and long may that continue.
Nevertheless, there is a dark message within the content of this image. The past has not been good to either man or beast and Shakespeare’s prose in Macbeth seems entirely apposite.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
My wish was that this picture should help John Kahekwa and his conservations efforts – it has both sobering and powerful symbolism. So, we have decided that all net proceeds from “All Our Yesterdays” will be returned to John Kahekwa and TUSK to help with his gorilla conservation in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park.