When I was living in South Africa, I went on safari. We were volunteering at a safari reserve, which sounded pretty great. We’d stand around shuffling our feet a lot and move some debris from one patch of ground to another patch of ground and then stare at it. Someone would take a photo, give us a bright yellow T shirt and then we’d all go and get pissed and look at hippos.
As it turned out, we did stare at a fair amount of debris. The debris just happened to be mounds of sun-bleached bones that had recently been nibbled clean by the incisors of a lion. Guards stood around us with pretty bargain bin looking guns – less sub-machine, more sub-standard; and we industriously toiled away, moving mammalian remains into more orderly, tourist-friendly piles. Occasionally a guard would bark something in Xhosa and we would all shit ourselves; before we realised that he was asking for a light, as opposed to telling us that a full size alpha lion had its jaws clamped around our ankle. I kept freezing mid-action in a bizarre testament to Musical Statues, as it worked out pretty well for the kids in Jurassic Park.
We also had to corral Peruvian horses, which sounded very romantic and I imagined flinging myself around a paddock like Robert Redford; but as a matter of fact wild Peruvian horses are stubborn bastards and I spent three hours sprinting headlong in random directions swinging a rope around as I had absolutely no bloody idea what I was supposed to be doing.
The job I enjoyed the most was babysitting tiny newborn crocodiles, who sloshed around in enamel dishes of water and were quite self sufficient, so I could drink lots of wine whilst carrying out this particular task.
I snapped a few photos – one of which is below. This blog post is photography based – focused around photographic social media in fact – that billion dollar idea… Instagram. That may come as a slight curveball seeing as I’ve just rambled on about South African safari reserves for the last 300 and something words…but there is a relevant point, I promise.
Look at this photo. It’s the clearest of the 68 that I patiently snapped. It is complete shit. It looks like a diseased gecko that fell into a box of stuff you were going to leave outside the Salvation Army. It transpires that I am a really hideous photographer. It blindsided me, to be honest. I had always assumed that the photos of sand that I was studiously sending via Whatsapp back to London were being pored over with envy, eliciting reactions of raging jealousy and barely suppressed urges to book plane tickets.
With hindsight though, it looks like I sent ten months worth of 98% recyclable beige napkin close-ups.
I’ll display another of my safari snaps.
This one is a rhino. Walking away. With a bit of car bonnet in the foreground. The rhinos were lolling around our Defender at incredibly close range for about 45 minutes. This is the only photo I got that doesn’t look like a close-up of breeze blocks. One morning I opened my front door at 5am, bleary eyed and yawning and desperate for a pee, and walked smack bang into two rhino. They looked a bit miffed, as though they had been standing around for an hour waiting to see a human and they weren’t overly impressed with the specimen in front of them. I probably looked a bit indifferent too, but I think it was more the shock of having my nose 2cm from full frontal rhino horn half an hour before my alarm was supposed to go off. Eventually I recovered and filmed them for a while. They literally just stand there for the entire video, staring at me with total disinterest, and at the moment that they start cavorting and gamboling around like over-excited puppies, I turn away and film a tree. Even my Dad, who is David Attenborough’s #1 Fan and watches fishing shows, glazed over.
The entire trip was punctuated by examples of my shoddy photography – scorpions that we had shaken out of our boots, baby warthogs, a pride of lions devouring a tortoise and elephants scratching their bums on rocky overhangs. None of the photos remotely represent the gist of what we were actually seeing. My most impressive snapshot was a picture of an eviscerated water buffalo. I made the driver stop and hung out of the truck window for five minutes snapping away merrily, and meanwhile we missed a migrating herd of giraffe. My safari buddies were none too pleased with me, and spent the rest of the day ignoring my existence.
If they saw the photos that I created today, however; they might just change their minds and want to be my best friend. Or maybe just follow me, either through cyberspace or down an alley. I’m now some sort of filter savvy, hipsterfied photographic genius. For today, I discovered Instagram. I know that I’m a bit late to the party here, but I do live in Byron Bay where our local newspaper tells us all about the dangers of flouride, wifi and low-vibrational people but doesn’t tend to dig too deeply into wider world issues.
Instagram has opened up a whole new over-exposed-but-in-a-good-way universe. I now feel like I lead an extremely glamorous life, documented in sepia. Pretty much every photo that I’ve ever taken has been put through the woozy filter process. I think Lo Fi is my favourite. I’ve hand selected a few for my account, complete with wanky captions like ‘Houseboat in Amsterdam’ and ‘Picnic at Audley End House with Mum and Jane.’ I sound like a complete prick, and people are probably thinking “who the fuck is Jane?” but I don’t really care because I have photos from at least three corners of the globe and so I must look like some kind of jet-setting person that drinks a lot of coconut water.
Here is an example of my recent handiwork:
It’s a koala that has given up on life. Sure, we all have tough days and just want to flop around like a torn bag of spuds, and this guy was conveying that perfectly. The pellets around him are small pebbles which I threw at him to make sure that he was alive. He raised his head at one point and stared at me as if to say “oh will you just piss off” and then went back to his melancholy sojourn. I told the zookeeper, as no-one wants to see a suicidal koala. But look at the light seeping around the edges of the photo. Check out the way that the colours just meld into one another. It looks bloody brilliant.
I might start referring to everyone in my photos by their initials like some sort of fictional prostitute. I will definitely take a photo of a brunch at some point. And I cannot wait to take a photo of myself staring moodily at a wall and plaster haziness all over it, thereby making myself appear ten times prettier than I actually am. No more out of focus rhino backsides for me.