Wild at art

Amateur Photographer|January 18, 2020

Wild at art
David Yarrow is one of the world’s leading fine art wildlife photographers. Steve Fairclough caught up with him to discuss his latest book and his career so far
Steve Fairclough

At the beginning of his career David Yarrow was photographing sports stars and not wildlife. Aged just 20, he shot an iconic image of footballer Diego Maradona holding the FIFA World Cup aloft after Argentina had won the 1986 final against West Germany in Mexico City. But, despite naming his early photographic heroes as legendary British sports photographers Eamonn McCabe and Chris Smith, Yarrow quickly realised he was in a crowded field.

He explains, ‘I remember being at an Olympic Games… I thought I’d got a good shot and then there were six other adjoining photographers that had exactly the same image. That was only going to go one way with motordrives, digital, frames per second, improved telephoto lenses and improved resolution in low light. With sports photography, even back in 1990, I worried that it was going to become a space characterised by over-supply of imagery.’

Yarrow took a break from taking pictures for a living to go into the world of finance. He didn’t return to it with gusto until around 2003, after his marriage fell apart, when photography became an ‘escape’. With a refreshing candour he reveals his path to photographing wildlife and warns some of his views might be ‘unpalatable’. He notes, ‘There are four or five genres of photography that take up about 85% or 90% of the population of photography… so you’ve got sport, female form, landscape, wildlife and still life.’

Yarrow explains, ‘Female form photography is f***ed, but it’s only really been f***ed in the last three years because of MeToo, the sense of female empowerment and the gratuitous use of the female form. If someone is going around with a camera photographing naked women I think the world is increasingly questioning why they’re doing it, because they can’t be doing it for commercial gain.’

He dabbled in landscape photography but chose not to pursue it, ‘Because how can you take a picture better than Ansel Adams did at Yosemite?’ Yarrow continues, ‘War photography is for the brave and I have huge admiration for those [photographers]. So I was left with very few choices. I felt that I’m not a wildlife photographer, I’m a photographer, but I sensed that maybe wildlife was an area that maybe had been done down a bit, that people were using these long lenses to be lazy but that [approach] cuts the emotion.’

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January 18, 2020