Kenya wildlife photographer David Gulden shares some of his best work
The longest he's ever waited for a photo is three years for a shot of a mountain bongo
His advice for safari: "Be wary of the safari guide who thinks he knows everything"
“Mr. Gulden works in two great photographic traditions – that of Edward Curtis, who devoted his life to documenting the passing of a way of life, and that of Ansel Adams, who wanted to make photos of nature that were indelible. To have combined them is another remarkable accomplishment.”
So wrote the Wall Street Journal in a review of photographer David Gulden’s most recent book “The Centre Cannot Hold,” (Glitterati), published last year.
Known for his evocative black and white images of wildlife, the New York native has spent the past two decades photographing primarily in Kenya.
Gulden’s obsessive patience, his passion for these animals and his talent are evident in his work – many of his photographs capture an animal in the most intimate of moments, blissfully unaware of being observed.
In her foreword of his book,” writer Susan Minot introduces him as “someone who tears the doors off vehicles so he can set his camera down at a unique low angle.”
We caught up with the adventurous photographer between shoots in Nairobi.
CNN: Your photos are known for “not glorifying” the animals that you shoot. What does that mean to you?
David Gulden: I try to make my photos a bit gritty, a bit raw. I don’t wish to over dramatize my subjects and I wish to avoid sentimentality. There’s beauty in east Africa’s wildlife but it’s a stark and often harsh beauty. There’s no glory, only survival.
CNN: Have you ever had any accidents while photographing on safari?
David Gulden: An agitated female black rhino with a young calf charged my vehicle. She smashed into the driver’s door with full force and then, like something out of “The Flintstones” – she thrust her horn up through the ceiling and it popped out the top of the roof.
No one got hurt including the two rhino.
CNN: What are some tips for photographing on safari?
David Gulden: Don’t be afraid to get weird or try something unusual. Be wary of the safari guide who thinks he knows everything.
CNN: What cameras do you use?
I’d been using Nikon film cameras but my vehicle caught fire and burned to the ground with all my gear inside.
Now I use Canon digital cameras.
More: Amazing desert photographs taken by paragliding photographer
CNN: Why do you prefer using black and white in your photography?
David Gulden: Black and white is more timeless than color – it invites the viewer to look more closely.
CNN: What is the longest you’ve ever waited for a shot?
David Gulden: It took three years to photograph the mountain bongo. There are less than 100 of them in the wild and they live in rough, remote, densely vegetated mountain terrain and they are extremely shy.
I have yet to see one – I got the photo using a sophisticated camera trap.
CNN: How did you first get into safari, and what made you keep going back?
David Gulden: My father took me on safari when I was 15, and I fell hard for it.
When I was 18, before I returned to take a semester course in Kenya with the National Outdoor Leadership School, my dad introduced me to the photographer Peter Beard – the most interesting man imaginable – and there was no turning back.
CNN: How often do you travel?
David Gulden: I live in the suburbs of Nairobi, so I have to travel to get to the wilderness.
The good thing about my home is that I can go in any direction and in only a few hours’ drive, I’ll find the greatest wildlife on the planet.