The photographer who answered the call of the wild


Prelena Owen discovered the splendour of nature when she was a little girl. Sitting on her grandfather’s knee, she watched wildlife documentaries wide-eyed. Drawing inspiration from Sir David Attenborough, she knew that whatever life had in store for her, she would answer the call of the wild. But as an Indian person in apartheid South Africa, Owen was denied access to game parks and reserves. For most of her life, she was forced to experience nature through a screen. It was only in her late twenties that she had her first face-to-face encounter with a wild animal. Motivated to conquer her limitations, she now uses wildlife photography to explore her passion and grant others their creative freedom.

With a Master’s Degree in Environmental Science, Owen decided to focus on conservation communication through photography. What she considered a hobby at first has taken her even further. “Since then, I’ve had magical encounters with the most beautiful animals on this planet,” Owen says. In just a few years, her images have won awards and received global recognition. The launch of her recently published images in the book Echoes of the Wild raised R10 000 for Birdlife SA and the Game Rangers Association of Africa. “Having gained a certain level of achievement, I think it’s a natural responsibility to want to give back into the community,” she says.

Owen believes that children are the future ambassadors of the earth, and is now dedicated to sharing her passion with them. She runs photography classes in Diepsloot as part of Roots & Shoots, an international youth programme initiated by renowned conservationist Jane Goodall. “I encourage young people to identify environmental issues in their communities using photography as a medium, equipping children with the right skills to identify problems and also to solve these problems,” Owen says. By raising awareness through her photography, she’s proving that anyone has the potential to make a positive difference and achieve beyond our limits.