Can photography save our wildlife?
A clamour of children scramble onto the back of a four-by-four. Cameras hang from their necks. Mike Kendrick has just given the group a lesson in wildlife photography. Now it’s time to practice. With their cameras as mediators, Kendrick hopes to introduce the children to wildlife on an intimate level and begin a conversation about conservation. Although the kids come from disadvantaged areas just outside Kruger National Park, this is the first time they’ve been inside.
Kendrick’s idea is simple: How can we ask people to care about protecting animals that they’ve never even seen? His approach to cultivating interest in wildlife is shrewd, because capturing a beautiful photograph is about more than composition and light – it requires the photographer to honestly consider her subject. And through the lens it takes only a moment to grasp the importance of these magnificent creatures.
After a day in the bush with Kendrick the children walk away with an understanding of just how beautiful and valuable South Africa’s wildlife is – and how important it is that we work to protect the animals we have left. This is the 16th group that he has converted into animal lovers since starting Wild Shots Education Outreach in 2015. The project relies on financial donations and donated DSLR cameras which the kids use for the five workshops and game drives. Kendrick also leaves a camera in each of their schools so that they can continue to practice. “One day I would love to see one of our graduates picking up an award… something like The Wildlife Photographer of the Year,” he says. Watch this space.