TALKING IMAGES 9 – RICHARD SIBLEY ON MEMORIES OF A MOMENT, AND AN ANGRY GORILLA PICTURE FROM ME

 

Richard Sibley (photo credit: Amateur Photographer magazine)

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Richard Sibley is the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer magazine, a publication I subscribe to and always wholeheartedly recommend to you, and here he is replying to a letter sent in to that mag:

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“It depends on what photography means to you.  For some, image quality is king.  For others, it is the content of the image that is important. 

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Some of my favourite images have been take on my iPhone.  It is the memory of a moment that means more to me than 100 shots of a landscape at sunrise.”.

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Oh I agree!  Content every time – CONTENT, CONTENT, CONTENT!!!

  • If image quality is there, well that’s fine and dandy, and good to have.  But quality alone is lost and helpless, its like an empty wine bottle – its the content of a photo that makes that photo worth looking at.

  • And I have no problems whatsoever with images captured by iPhones – it is a cornerstone of my Photographic Philosophy (how grand that I should have one! 🙂 ) that, as long as an image is good, its matters not the slightest bit how it was made.

  • And finally, while I’m on a roll / wittering on, landscapes at sunrise, yes, but landscapes any time really, it doesn’t have to be “the magic hour” >>> but that discussion is for another time!

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And so to my take on memories of a moment – an angry gorilla, long ago.

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In July 1981, I went to see Mountain Gorillas on the Virunga volcanoes in northwestern Rwanda, a small republic in central Africa.  A guide took us up into the dense mountain forest on Mt Visoke, and eventually we started having brief glimpses of these huge apes in the dense vegetation.

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We eventually found an adult male gorilla lying out in the open, down at the end of a natural tunnel through the vegetation.  Such males are called silverbacks, because of the very pale grey fur they have on their backs.  We were lying flat on the ground so as not to present any threat to the apes, and we had with us a couple where the husband was a photographer, while his wife was acting as his assistant, passing him various bits of photo gear as and when he needed them.

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Again so as not to disturb the animals, we had been told to keep perfectly quiet, no conversation whatsoever – and this was where the photographer and wife ran into problems, because she had no means of knowing what piece of gear he wanted next.  And so they started making fairly frantic hand signals to each other – which, unbeknown to the rest of us, caught and held the silverback’s attention – and steadily raised his stress levels.

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As long as I live, I’ll never forget the moment.  For suddenly, without any warning whatsoever, this huge male leapt up into the air and came barrelling straight down the tunnel in the vegetation towards us.  There was no time to do anything.  As the charge came, the man lying beside me, an experienced Kenya safari leader, simply said “Oh ****!” and pressed his face into the mud.  I simply looked down.

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But the animal stopped before he reached us and, instead of the carnage we’d feared, he started into threat displays, rushing back and fore in front of us, scything down the bamboo and other forest vegetation with his outstretched arm.  I had an OM-2, an automatic 35mm camera, in my hand, wound on and ready – and being far, far less cautious than I am now, I raised it and took this single picture.

 

Gorilla charge

 

What does it show?  On the right of the picture there is this great area of blackness, which is the body of this massive creature charging to the right.  Extending to the left out from that area of blackness, extending down towards the centre of the frame and appearing like a heavy black log or club, is the gorilla’s right arm, held out rigidly as he smashes it through the vegetation in front of us.  And immediately below that arm is a flash of white, which is his silver back.

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And so, the memory of a moment.  Technically an appalling photo, the beast blurred, almost unrecognisable – but to say that I value this picture is one of Life’s great understatements.  It is the memory of an unforgettable experience, an experience of certainly less than a minute’s duration, from which I was fortunate to emerge unscathed.

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Being with these large relatives of our’s was the most exciting mammal watching I have ever done.  Certainly I had some incredible experiences in Kenya, but (for large animals) these were mainly viewed from the safety of vehicles – although the experience of almost walking into large animals – giraffe, elephants – motionless amongst tall trees will long remain with me.

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But the thing with these gorillas was that not only were they large and at times aggressive, but we were there, unarmed, amongst the trees and bushes, amongst them.  Just before the silverback charged, a youngster had climbed through the bamboo towards us and, descending to the ground, had stood there looking at us – eye contact – it could so easily have been a five year old human child.

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And very slowly our guide had picked up a little stick and offered it – and the young gorilla had taken it and, holding it, had continued standing there, looking down at us.  Eye contact.  A formative life experience for me, I’m sure, the thought of which can still moisten my eyes.
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About Adrian Lewis
Photographer working in monochrome, colour and combinations of the two - with a great liking for all sorts of images, including Minimalism, landscapes, abstracts, soft colour, people, movement, nature - I like to be adventurous in my photography, trying new ideas and working in many genres. And I'm fond of Full English Breakfasts and Duvel golden ale, though not necessarily together.

10 Responses to TALKING IMAGES 9 – RICHARD SIBLEY ON MEMORIES OF A MOMENT, AND AN ANGRY GORILLA PICTURE FROM ME

  1. Sonali Dalal says:

    I agree about content! Content is the king as it reflects the vision of the photographer. And vision matters the most!

    Like

  2. Sallyann says:

    WOW.!!! 🙂
    What happened next? 😀

    Like

  3. Emily Gooch says:

    Good post, Adrian. Yes, I agreed. Content for me is more important than a perfectly executed pretty picture. I know that’s why I’m attracted to your work. I like the content of your photos and words. On more occasions than not, your images provoke my imaginative mind. As I read the angry gorilla story, I can feel the fears I know I would have, had I been in your position. I can understand the memories from the not so “perfect” photo brings back that day whenever you see it. The photo might not show all the details but I’m sure the image of the angry gorilla is crystal clear — etched forever in your mind. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Em, thank you very much for your good thoughts – I’m very glad that you’re continuing to enjoy my photography! I hope your leg heals double quick – sounds like its doing better every day. Adrian 🙂

      Like

  4. sheldonk2014 says:

    Thank you my friend for the information, everything will help at this point to quench my thirst for knowledge, I am still trying to find my way when it comes to taken a photo

    Like

    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Well I’m glad this helps, Sheldon. My next Talking Images post is going to talk about learning creativity, that might be helpful too – except that I know you’re already a creative person! My advice to you is to start taking pictures of anything and everything, and to start thinking what you like or don’t like about them. Adrian

      Like

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