Twenty Years On

My first taste of southern Africa came when I was just eleven years old and those initial memories have stuck with me as clear as day ever since. My parents, reluctant to give up the notion of travel just because of having a son, proposed the idea to me and to a young boy it couldn’t have sounded any more exciting; an adventure in a new country full of animals that I’d only seen on television. It sounded like something out of an Indiana Jones film, and so I was beyond excited to step onto the plane, traverse the skies and land in a country so far from home and my own reality. What I initially received, however, was a crushing disappointment.

Thinking nothing but of the images of open planes doused in a constant golden light with giraffes and elephants meandering in the distance – the romanticised Africa that’s continuously advertised and sold. They were fantastical expectations, and I believed we would descend through the clouds to a lone and dusty airstrip surrounded by the continent’s most iconic creatures. What I got, however, was Johannesburg. The clouds turned to smog and my excitement dwindled as open planes were in actuality a labyrinth of city blocks congested with traffic. It was nothing but a giant, grey city – my hopes and dreams were dashed. This is Africa?

Obviously at that age I had no idea of what actually formed the country of South Africa, and luckily, I wasn’t too dissuaded in that initial introduction as I’m happy to say that, twenty years later, I’m now living and working in South Africa. Once we made it to Kruger National Park, everything I had hoped for was restored. Casually grazing wildebeest and zebras were everywhere to be seen and my instinct was to steal my father’s camera to document and capture those sightings. That trip also turned out to be my introduction to photography; not that I was giving much thought into composition. I still to this day remember my father begging me to wait to photograph a giraffe once we had moved so that power lines weren’t in shot. It was a plea that was ignored and I’m sure I wasted an entire roll of film on that one individual and every frame carried with it those background power lines – I was too excited and trigger happy.