Dave Southwood is an international photographer currently based in Australia. Through his blog and works, he teaches others the beauty of wildlife tourism and photography, how to find their own style and vision, as well as how to overcome their fear of shooting strangers.
His passion for photography is unrivaled as he left the financial banking world to pursue a journey into wildlife photography.
In this interview with African Development Magazine, Dave speaks about his experience as a white African man, his family sojourn to United Kingdom and how his father taught him photography instead of farming.
Mr Dave had worked and visited over 40 countries with his lens and camera giving the best shoot in the wildlife tourism and adventure tourism.
Right, let’s get down to business with Mr Dave Southwood
Can you tell us briefly about yourself, your family and educational background?
I am white African man, born in Botswana and grew up on a farm in the South of Botswana, my life was a combination of long stints at boarding school in South Africa to being wild and free in the wilds of Botswana. My father was born in Mafeking which was part of Bechuanaland; my grandfather lived in Zeerust but moved to Devon England in 1820. My father originally was a farmer but I studied abroad because there were no schools, we boarded in South Africa,
I studied Economics, but it was not my passion, so moved into Safaris as a professional private safari guide, something which I still do. My Family moved to United Kingdom years ago, where I had to school and choose a career, I Initially decided to work in the financial private banking world, but it was not my passion, so after a year I gave it up to resume a job as a safari Guide for a small private lodge in Southern Africa.
The transition from a banking role in the highest paid sector into a completely unpaid role was a total Leap of faith and I designed to focus on my passion and realization on my creative goals
How did you find photography to be right for you, and what can you recommend to other photographers trying to find their niche?
I think Photography found me through my Dad, who was a passionate Amateur Photographer, I discovered that i could tell stories through my camera, I would say that you need to work at it, it’s not because that its digital its easy, in fact its far harder than that, to create a moment of deeply emotional impact is never easy, follow your passions and all good things come to those that do.
The focus is on photography, and the concept of readers having to become educated like drones is not the focus for people worldwide to empower themselves, it’s about getting out there and making things happen with what they have, true fact.
Were you formally educated in photography, or are you self-taught? How would you define your personal style of photography?
I was taught by my dad, he was a wonderful but strict mentor, he gave me an old Pentax Spotmatic at the age of 5 and I had to take pictures, it was a physical process. My background started in film so my respect for the craft is different to someone coming in entirely on digital where one often thinks that the more clicks will get the image, which is an entirely false concept
My photography is timeless moments and skills honed from watching the greatest photography work
What was your proudest moment in your photography career so far?
I think my proudest moment is to have exhibited in South America in Buenos Aires, my Series On Gauchos, which I shot entirely on a 50 year old `Rolleiflex, but every day is a proud moment if you are able to mentor People in Africa.
What do you think of B&W versus Colour with photography?
I think Black and white for Permanence and Colour for the moment in time. I love both, some images of dust and drama needs to be in colour, whereas the lines of an old wise woman sometimes are told better in black and white.
Which photo are you currently most proud of?
I love My Rainbow Elephant, I shot this in Botswana in the heat of the day at a water seep, it was bone dry and there were a few elephants dust bathing, this beautifully regal Matriarch elephant walked past me as I was lying literally underneath her, there was a quiet understanding of mutual respect, something that is requires in every part of the photography process.
What are your amazing memories during the wildlife tour?
The silence, the early mornings when you may hear a lion in the distance or the whoop of hyenas, these are primal sounds
Comparing where you are now, with where you are when you first started, what could you have one differently to get to where you are sooner?
I think the advent of Social media has spring boarded a lot of careers, at an early age of 16, I won fine artist of the year in Southern Africa, and was offered a role in a film, which i Declined, perhaps had i taken that then my career path may have been different, but I never regret where I have been as it defines where I am now.
I feel rewarded more by telling a story and letting people learn from me when I am very grounded, than if I was someone full of his own importance, I believe in humility with ones work, we are always learning.
Would you like to assign or partner African Development Magazine for promotion and event coverage of wildlife tourism business, would you support this development?
Yes, as I feel it’s the right platform to mentor future generations of Africans, and that is my vision, for People in Africa to be the best at what they do on a global scale.
Tell us about Safaristaff?
It’s a recruitment business set up 7 years ago to support and train and mentor local staff across Africa and then find them jobs.
What do you consider to be the main difference between yourself and others like you who have failed to get to where you are?
Persistence pays off, we all have tough days, but have a tough year and most people run for the hills, keep pushing and keep believing.
How much time do you spend taking photos, versus retouching photos?
I spend most of my time creating images, the time I spend retouching is minimal as I prefer to not retouch too much, let the image speak for itself.
To what degree do you retouch your photos? Is there anything that you like to do in your photos in particular, such as add certain curves?
I hardly retouch, only change lighting slightly.
You travel for wildlife tourism purpose, kindly share your amazing moment and countries visited?
I have been fortunate to travel to the four corners of the globe and love the people! They inspire and teach you in the humblest ways. Uganda is a wonderfully spiritual place; Africa by far is my travel choice, whether it’s the dry deserts of Namibia, to the dark forests of the Congo, the sublime tapestries of life juxtaposed carefully alongside wildlife.
I have visited countries like: Nigeria, Namibia, Kenya, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Uganda, United States, Southern American, China, Malaysia, South Korea, Italy, Germany, Belgium and many more.
Who would you like to work with most?
I love working with passionate Africans, they laugh fully and cry openly, they wear their heart on their shirt sleeve, I am like that, and love that!
What do you like about Africans?
Everything!!! Laughs!!!! They beautiful and spiritual and just plain amazing!
And finally, please write a short message to anyone who looks up to your style, with a few words of wisdom.
Always look to the past, the wonderful photographers out there, from fashion photographers to Landscape, black and white pioneers like Ansell Adams and Imogen Cunningham, there are fabulous African photographers out there honing their craft and doing it their way.
Always be true to yourself and your craft, never give up or give in, take criticism on the chin and learn from it, Arrogance is not an asset.
Thank you for sharing with ADM.
You are welcome Adewale. Thank you
Dave Southwood’s Gallery