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David Yarrow Photography Newsletter Edition 8, August 2017

David Yarrow Photography Newsletter Edition 8, August 2017

Letter From Johannesburg

11th September 2017

The summer filming is wrapped and now it’s show time. As I pen this from a hotel room in chilly Johannesburg, I find myself looking at two dusty camera cases and the disorderly contents of a smelly suitcase full of even more dirty clothes than normal. It’s one big mess, but I kid myself that it is simply because I have been behind enemy lines. The flight home marks the end of quite a significant chapter in this journey.

It has been a relentless five weeks with studio work in LA coupled with assignments in Alaska, North Korea, Scotland, South Africa and finally Namibia. It’s a peripatetic lifestyle that I have signed up for and there is no complaining, but equally I am looking forward to coming home to my family, having a long bath and then preparing for the shows in London and Oslo in the weeks ahead.

None of us are getting out of here alive and if we are not here for a long time, let’s at least be here for a good time. In my old days in finance, I had little fondness for the summer, as I almost always wanted to be somewhere I wasn’t. Now, by and large, I am where I want to be and it does not feel much like work at all. As a veteran PR man said to me in New York the other day: “What most men in the middle of their life crave most, is to be useful.” This resonates with me and I am certainly of more use now, than I was sitting at a trading screen on a summer’s day. I now know what I will do for the rest of my life and I am blessed to have that certainty.

There is another dynamic that enriches my life and that is simply the breadth of people and situations to which I am now exposed. More implausible stories accumulate in a month than I could remember happening in a year in my old trading days. My eight day assignment in North Korea always had the potential to deliver from a storytelling perspective and one particular evening will always stay with me.

In the 1970s, hijacking planes was seen as kind of cool. If you could not play in a rock band, or were not Vitas Gerulaitis or Bjorn Borg, but wanted fame and membership of Studio 54, nicking a plane offered one possible game plan. Andy Warhol would welcome you to The Factory with open arms.

And so it was that in March 1971, Japan Airlines Flight 351 from Tokyo to Fukuoka was hijacked by nine members of the so called “Japanese Red Army”. Idealists, rather than today’s kind of terrorists, and armed with samurai swords rather than firearms, they took 129 hostages and tried to fly to Cuba. That’s an ambitious journey in “economy” never mind in someone else’s plane, but the fuel tank only got them as far as Seoul. The South Koreans rather churlishly refused to refuel the plane and the hostages were released.

So the sword wielding Japanese hijackers took off again and landed a few minutes later in Pyongyang, where they were offered diplomatic asylum.

There was no road back to Japan for Mr. Wakabayashi and his rebels, so they simply took up residency in North Korea, where they were lauded as rock stars. 46 years later, I found myself sitting next to the surviving five at a modest beach restaurant on the east coast and totally oblivious to their storied past, we pulled tables together, got the whisky out and sang Liverpool songs. (Mr Wakabayashi – a devoted Liverpool fan – is the only man in North Korea able to watch the Premiership games on cable – albeit a day late). When their story was told, I remember my next whisky being a reasonably quick one. Then it was back to Gerry and the Pacemakers.

Dinner in North Korea with the five Japanese Hijackers from 1971 who have not been able to leave the country.

“None of us are getting out of here alive and if we are not here for a long time, let’s at least be here for a good time.”

Give me this dinner any day over a smart dinner in Chelsea with idle gossip and endless public school or headmaster comparisons. I can’t be alone in finding these conversations energy draining and vapid? It is surely far more enriching to be in North Korea eating dodgy squid with five veteran hijackers than to be discussing the refurbishment of Annabel’s or Hedge fund returns for July.

Of course I am biased and there is probably a negative skew towards much of the world I left behind. I do miss many kind, intelligent people in my old world, many of whom have been so supportive of my new direction. The wonderful thing is, that some of them, recognising that I have better access than most, are now joining me on assignments.

That August evening in Wonsan, North Korea, however, I was very much on my own.

In the field, it can be a singular job and to an extent this must always remain the case. I have to continue to go to places that are a bridge too far for others, as my goal is always to garner original content.

It is instructive that senior providers of original content are very much the darlings of the digital age – the success of Netflix and Amazon Prime has changed the way we watch content for ever. In the world of still photography, fresh content should be right on the critical path of the forward thinking practitioners. It is not just that originality is the corner stone of editorial work, or contemporary fine art, it is also that strong content helps bring status which can secure status affirming collaborations at a corporate level.

This was always my game plan, but the back book and distribution model had to be built first. In August I have signed worldwide agreements with two iconic and market leading brands – Land Rover and Nikon. I am delighted to be made a global ambassador for the iconic British car brand and with Nikon, I was honoured to be one of four professional photographers worldwide asked to test and showcase their ground breaking new camera – the D850. I look forward to the content of this collaboration being released.

It has been a rewarding summer. Come to the shows! We will be in London, Oslo, Turin, Chicago, Cincinnati, Toronto, New Orleans, Paris, Amsterdam and Moscow in the months ahead.

 

For several years something has been brewing in the Nikon design factory – a camera that will again move things forward. Exogenous events have not made it an easy decade for the company, with the horrific tsunami of 2011 hitting their Japanese headquarters in Sendai, Japan and then the floods in Thailand affecting a key component supplier, but very soon in 2017, the Nikon D850 will arrive. It is the most anticipated product release in photography for some time.

So it was a huge honour to be asked by Nikon to showcase the camera for their global advertising campaign. For someone that always opened Christmas presents early, signing a non-disclosure form and keeping the capabilities of the camera in my possession totally secret has been a challenge. But that is what has happened in August 2017.

 

 

New Releases

 

Hairspray

Large – Edition of 12, Framed size – 71″ x 80″ (180 cm x 203 cm)
Standard – Edition of 12, Framed size – 52″ x 58″ (132 cm x 147 cm)– Words by Kevin Richardson (The Lion Whisperer)We discussed what we were trying to achieve and how on earth we were going to achieve it. Ultimately it was decided that an explosive running shot would be best. It would be shot at a low angle with nothing else in the frame to distract our eye. The lion would need to be running at camera and although David is a genius with his remote control work, he decided to operate the camera himself, which naturally added to the complexity of achieving this shot.It took a good two days to come up with this image. I’ve seen almost every picture there is of a lion running but I don’t think there is a picture of this calibre out there.

The Good, The Bad and The Ass

Large – Edition of 12, Framed size – 71″ x 116″ (180 cm x 295 cm)
Standard – Edition of 12, Framed size – 52″ x 87″ (132 cm x 221 cm)Every so often I allow myself an indulgent assignment and try to follow a bold creative idea linearly through to conception. The final image is a result of creating a scene rather than recording a scene and this, in itself, demands a great deal of cognitive processing. Staged imagery demands exhaustive attention to detail, exactly because they are staged. The photographer cannot really blame nature for a flopped shot, as the dynamic of the random walk of nature is largely eliminated.I was due a little self-indulgence this summer after my trip to North Korea and so several months ago, we started to plan a staged shoot in the vast wilderness of the Namib Desert – surely one of the most visually intoxicating locations in the world. My concept was to build a fully stocked bar in the desert and then to fill it with a hotch potch of disconnected characters. Mad Max was set to meet Burning Man. The composition had to be painterly and perfectly backlit – and perfect lighting in the desert is no easy task.

 

New Creative Partnership With Land Rover

I was delighted to accept the invitation to become part of the Land Rover family, a brand I have admired for many years. Jaguar Land Rover is one of the UK’s great success stories with world-class design and engineering. I am proud to be associated with such an iconic British brand.

WildArk

I am proud to announce that I have accepted the invitation to become a global ambassador for WildArk (www.wildark.com). This is a young and dynamic organisation set up by Mark and Sophie Hutchinson, whose quest is to protect the world biodiversity, primarily through land acquisition.

Nikon Talk – Dusseldorf, September 23

On the 23rd September, I will be giving a talk at Nikon’s event “I AM 100 – A DAY BEHIND THE LENS”, celebrating 100 years of history and the release of the D850. It is set to be a fantastic event.

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