From her base in South Africa, Caroline can travel out to the African bush, immersing herself within the wildlife for hours. Her mystical portraits portray the reverence she holds for Africa’s creatures and landscapes.
Elephant in Winterthornes
Is there a story behind your striking elephant photograph?
In October, along the banks of the Lower Zambezi River, the glades of Winterthorns attract many elephants, which gorge themselves on the plentiful seed pods. I spent many an hour in the glades watching the gentle giants slowly gliding amongst the trees. Time stands still; there is complete silence except for the whirring of cicadas, the low guttural rumbles of the elephants and sound of cracking twigs and grass beneath their lolling gait. There is continual movement through the glades and by resting in one spot I was privileged enough to become part of their environment. I had huge bulls pass by me, undisturbed or perturbed by my presence.
Describe your first break in the photography world.
My first break came ten years after travelling the world, when a well-known advertising and fashion photographer in Cape Town offered me an assisting job. I am immensely grateful to Jan Verboom for giving me the opportunity to assist him and take on the apprenticeship. He didn’t know me and I had no skill set, yet he responded to an email which I had written, begging for a job in his beautiful studio. It was the definitive beginning of my photography career. And it was born out of an act of kindness.
What work are you most proud of?
My African work is very special to me- I am passionate about the wilderness and bush, which is my sacred space. Nothing aside from that space exists for me when I am immersed in the depths of Africa, convening with her magical creatures, at one with all of nature. I am also very proud of my Indian material. There are many portfolios of work waiting to be processed from a few years’ worth of trips to that mystical, magical land. I am very proud of that work – it is full of spirit and humility.
Tell us about the experience of shooting your giraffe portraits.
After following the wildebeest migration in the western Serengeti, my guide and I took a drive across the river to the open plains to see whether we could spot any cheetah. Instead, we encountered a huge group of ten or more giraffes that were feeding on acacias. The trees are dispersed across the plains, so the giraffes moved from one tree to the next. It is an extraordinarily beautiful sight to see such a huge group of giraffes gliding across the horizon; their form and gait is so gentle and fluid. These three giraffes passed in front of me in almost perfect symmetry, framed against a wide open horizon and vast African sky.
What advice would you give to younger photographers?
Take photos morning, noon and night – never stop. Your eye will evolve, you will begin to see light and dark, shades and tones that didn’t exist for you previously, and subtleties of colour will subconsciously integrate into your brain. The art of photography is all about practically applying it – in this way, you will develop your own unique style and photographic language.
What do you want to accomplish that you haven’t already?
Exhibit in New York next year, finish my Indian book and traverse Africa in my landi.
What attracted you to this scene?
Cheetah are commonly plain animals and I came across this pair in the early evening, as the sun was setting, lying in soft open grass… They were scanning the horizon whilst laying in the grass, potentially preparing for a hunt. The nonchalance of their expression and demeanour emanated tranquillity to me and I spent quite a while in their presence, silently observing and witnessing these beautiful cats. They were very relaxed in my presence – often the case when one is truly immersed in the bush. Reverence and respect of these beautiful animals plays a large part in being able to connect with them at a very deep level. This connection makes photographing them very easy.
Please give details of any photographic techniques used or digital adjustments you made to the image.
I tend to overexpose my images in camera to flood the image with light, in an attempt to blow out what I consider unnecessary clutter and detail. By doing this, the image becomes a very simplistic and clean representation of what I am viewing. It results in a stillness and emotive sensitivity.
Any accessories you can’t work without?
Nope – less is more.
Finally, what is a good life?
A simple one.
Find Caroline's work here.