Do you remember Andrew McGibbon, the animal loving fine art photographer that shoots snakes and horses, and everything in between. As if photographing wild animals is not thrilling enough, Andrew decided to shoot his most recent project in front of a live audience.
Last week we shared a series of images on the Profoto Instagram account. The pictures are from Andrew McGibbon’s latest project Wolves + Vultures. His fine art projects have always focused on animals and this one spawned out of the interest in the connection between animals and humans.
“I began out of a deep interest in the animals themselves, but in the journey I moved into the relationship between animals and the wild, and then into the connection between animals and humans. I started to realise that the more I looked at the earth and the animals that inhabit it, the more I saw the beauty of human beings.
“I had been spending a lot of time thinking about the journey we as modern humans made from our origins in East Africa some 40-60 000 years ago and the animals that we encountered, aligned with, and feared. I love to imagine what it must have been like.
“Nature is not abstract, or something removed from our existence, but intrinsically linked to humanity. It is through our eyes that nature fully exists. This was the basis for the project.“
All the images where shot in front of a live audience. Andrew believes that the act of creating is just as important as the finished product. Inviting people to see him shoot in action also becomes a lesson in photography.
“Like the ultimate Behind the Scenes”, he says.
The choice of doing a live show was just as much to create awareness through intimate experiences.
“I want to show people what they have not seen. Show them that a vulture is extraordinary and not disgusting. That a wolf can be very friendly and loves to be loved. Just like you and me.
“I’ve had so much positive feedback from people that came. The desired effect was achieved.”
Andrew explains that shooting with an audience puts a lot of pressure on you. People have paid to see you, but you don’t even know that you can do it.
“History has shown that you probably can do it and that brings a level of confidence but you just don’t know.
Just to put a little bit extra pressure on the photographer, he only ever meets the animals when the audience does.
“I’d have been spending the day building the set, testing the lights with human stand-ins and due to the fact that we don’t want the animals on set for any longer than absolutely necessary, we only bring them in when the audience is seated and I am ready.
“On the plus side, it is massively exhilarating. I really love big production sets. Merging talent, light, subject, location, energy and technical know-how into a moment in time so beautiful that the viewer must stop to make sense of the emotion it makes them feel. Adding an audience into the mix just lends to that excitement.
“The art becomes more than just a photograph. It is theatre, performance art, and education. It seemed right.”
“Working with animals is not as tricky as we have been led to believe”, Andrew claims. “Well if you have the right temperament I guess”, he quickly adds.
Since they are wild animals and do not do what you want them to do, Andrew focus on the environment first.
“I plan and build the set and light setup to a pretty tight degree of precision. I then choose my frame.
“I don’t ever shoot from multiple angles, just one. With this done, there is no changing variable besides the animal. So I need only to make challenging requests to the animal handlers and if they can deliver, I get the shot.”
“I also built a custom focus wand, in fact, I may have invented the focus wand. When photographing people that are in motion, I normally ask them to stand in the place where they’ll be for the picture so I can focus on them. And then they can perform the movement. Wolves can’t do that so I made a cardboard cutout of a wolf face, put it on the end of a long stick and had a kid from the audience lower and raise it into the set so I could focus. So much fun!”
For this project, Andrew had two sets. One followed on from his Caiman Crocodilus project. It involved a lot of backlights with different colored gels. He didn’t feel done with this super colorful look. He also want to create images that appeal to a younger demographic.
“I figure that if I can get these images into kids’ rooms in the form of inexpensive posters, I can add my voice to the Anti-Red Riding Hood story. The wolf is not the bad guy that will eat your grandmother. He is majestic, she is beautiful, they deserve our utmost respect and our devoted protection.
“There are people in the world who want nothing but destruction and personal gain. They will kill and destroy habitats with no regard. We must stop them. Educating the next generation is the best way I feel I can make positive change.”
In addition he wanted to move away from the poppy color vibes and create something a little more classic and mature. For that he chose a royal blue backdrop and Profoto Giant 180.
“I still added the low fog machine for some drama. I loved the results… so much.”
Profoto Pro-B3 x2
Profoto Pro-7b x1
Profoto Pro-b heads x 6
Profoto D1 1000s x 2
Profoto Zoom Reflectors
Grid & Filter Holder
Profoto Giant 180
Profoto Softlight Reflector White
Antari ICE-101 Ice Cooled Low Fog Machine X2
Colorama – white and royal blue
A couple of pieces of cardboard to waft the fog (Hi-tech stuff)
Canon 80mm 1,2