British Columbia·Photos

Photographer David Yarrow gets up close and personal in the name of art

He's photographed some of the most exotic animals in the world in some of the most environmentally sensitive areas, and for the first time, David Yarrow's work will be shown here in Vancouver.

The renowned Scottish photographer's first exhibit in Vancouver opens this week

Photographer David Yarrow says the key to great photographs is to be authentic, original and creative. (David Yarrow)

He's photographed some of the most exotic animals in the world in some of the most environmentally sensitive areas, and, now, for the first time, David Yarrow's work will be shown here in Vancouver.

Yarrow, a renowned Scottish fine-art photographer, started out as a sports photographer, worked in finance and returned to art photography. He's published three photography books, including Wild Encounters (2016), where his royalties were donated to Tusk Trust, a conservation charity. 

He spoke with host Jason D'Souza on CBC's On The Coast before the opening of his first exhibit in Vancouver.

On getting close — very close

Yarrow has followed the maxim by photojournalist Robert Capa: if your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough.

"I think if you're if you're working with big magnificent animals you want to magnify their magnificence," said Yarrow. 

Yarrow likes to get up close and personal with his subjects, like this mountain lion. (David Yarrow)

Yarrow, who has photographed models like Cindy Crawford and Cara Delevingne, says the intimacy of fashion photography can translate to wildlife photography.

"You want to photograph a lioness the same way as you'd photograph a supermodel."

A shot of supermodel Cara Delevingne. (David Yarrow)

There have occasionally been close calls, but Yarrow says people cause the biggest moments of danger. 

"People can do three things that animals can't do," he said. "They can sometimes have too much to drink, and sometimes they can smoke the wrong things, and sometimes they can have a gun."

On his return to photography

After spending some time as a sports photographer — including photographing the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary — Yarrow went into banking. 

"t was seen as quite a sexy profession, much sexier than it is now. And there was a bit of peer pressure, a bit of parental pressure. I had an economics degree," he said.

"I got on the hamster wheel and joined the rat race for a good 15 years."

David Yarrow spent 15 years in finance before returning to his passion as a photographer. (David Yarrow )

But, he says, it was never where his passion or soul was. 

"[Through] it I learned a lot. I learned a lot about supply and demand and I was always watching how the photography market was evolving."

On the role of technology

Yarrow says the most helpful thing new technology has done is give photographers immediate feedback. 

"If you're using remote cameras and you are working in film in the old days you wouldn't know until you had the film processed whether your remotes were working or not. With digital, you find that straight away."

Yarrow says technology has both helped and hurt the photography profession. (David Yarrow)

However, technology can be a double-edged sword. He says the ease of photography has led to an overload of photographs in the modern era. This has hurt a lot of professional photographers as the price of stock photography has fallen.

"It's a bit like Charles Dickens said: it's the best of times, It's the worst of times." 

"It's the best of times because photography is not a mainstream art. Everyone's interested in photography. It's the worst of times in that the ability to monetize it [has] got increasingly hard because everyone is a photographer."

An exhibit of David Yarrow's work will be shown at the Chali Rosso Gallery. It runs until Nov. 10. (The bottom half of the photograph is an intentional effect.) (David Yarrow)

David Yarrow's exhibit opened Wednesday at Chali Rosso Gallery and runs until November 10. 

Listen to the interview on CBC's On The Coast here:

With files from On The Coast

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