Photo: Lugard — The World’s Biggest Big Tusker Elephant
World renowned fine art photographer David Yarrow sheds light on the four key elements that make his imagery iconic.
Taken: Tsavo East, Kenya
Date: 15th October 2017
Subject: Lugard — a massive 48 year old elephant in Tsavo East. In fact, he is the biggest in the world.
In my talks, I have been known to say that for me there are four key words in fine art photography and they all begin with the letter R.
Great photography, more often than not, starts with great access.
Access has to be found and earned. The platform for this is research. You cannot turn up to Nairobi airport and say: “take me to the biggest elephant in the world”.
Poachers want him too. After huge research, I found the only person who knew roughly where he was — ( he is not tagged ). We found him by flying a tiny plane at 200 feet above the massive Tsavo ecosystem. I worked with the local conservation trust and a percentage of sales of this image will go back to protecting Lugard. I do a great deal of this now — encouraging a cash trail partnership between the local fixer and me — especially if it has a conservation angle.
As an aside I think research or emotional investment is a prerequisite for female or celebrity photography too. Much of the work is done nowhere near a camera.
Once we knew where Lugard was, we flew to near him everyday and landed on the nearest bush plane strip. Tsavo is 12,000 square kms so this is a
vast ecosystem. It was a mighty challenge. When we reached him , more often than not he was not in the clear (he would be eating shrubs in a dense area and if you surprise him, its game over — for you ). This made remote control work impossible and any kind of transcending image very unlikely. Then one day , we got him on a mission to a watering hole and in the clear . All our thoughts revolved around his need for a drink (something I can relate to!).
So finding Lugard was one job, getting this image was the next. Both are a bridge too far for those that are not relentless. This was a very dangerous picture to take. It’s not perfect, as I had two seconds to put the camera down and run like hell.
The toughest R of the lot to attain. But there are only 18 or so big tuskers left in the world — ones where their tusks touch the ground — the gene pool is
okay in Tsavo ( where Peter Beard did much of his iconic work ), but this mammoth prehistoric beast is sadly on the way out . There are just 18 left in the world and I have photographed three of them this week . That makes this image very relevant — as Lugard is the “King of kings”.
Less is more. This is a portrait — it claims no loftier goal . My style of using wide angle lenses and being immersive, makes sure that the viewer is asked
of no bigger task than to admire nature close up. No big context, no backdrops, no colour. On this occasion in rough and corrupt ridden Kenya, I am asking attention to one subject — Lugard!!!
See more of David Yarrow’s work by visiting his website http://davidyarrow.photography