Meet Chris Fallows, the South African wildlife photographer behind ‘Air Jaws’ and more

ByDavid M. Conte

Sep 9, 2021

(CNN) – For many people, having the chance to see some of the world’s most iconic wildlife up close and in their natural environment is a priority. If you’re lucky and your hands are steady for the moment, you might even capture the perfect shot and a vacation memory that will last a lifetime.

World-renowned South African wildlife photographer Chris Fallows knows how exhilarating this kind of experience can be. He lived it over and over again.

Fans of “Shark Week” have probably seen Fallows’ work; he was the first to capture a great white shark breaking the waters near Seal Island, off the coast of Cape Town, in 1996. His extensive work has since been published in over 60 international documentaries and over 500 publications. For Fallows, however, taking a photo isn’t all about capturing a beautiful image. It’s about telling a unique story and sharing a passion with the world.

As a dedicated shark conservationist, he and his wife educate people about this often misunderstood predator. But his efforts don’t end there – Fallows is fighting for all wildlife and hopes that through his lens he can create awareness and effect change for many of the animals that Fallows says he saw disappear in what is equivalent to an “evolving blink of an eye”. “

CNN recently sat down with Fallows to learn more about their work and mission.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

CNN: How and when did you get into wildlife photography?

Chris Fallows: I was exposed to wildlife when I was very young. Through this exhibition, I became incredibly passionate about these animals. I was lucky enough to experience a behavior that was quite unique to Seal Island and False Bay, and it was that of the flying great white shark. I certainly saw a great niche and opportunity for myself as a photographer, and started trying to capture the demeanor of this amazingly athletic great white shark, which opened up unprecedented doors for me across the world. .

Photographer Chris Fallows has been capturing images of iconic wild animals for almost 30 years.

Courtesy of Chris Fallows

CNN: What are the challenges, myths and misconceptions about wildlife photography?

Fallow land: Wildlife photography is an incredibly glamorous and rewarding profession. However, it also involves a tremendous amount of hard work. The more in depth you study your topics, the more you connect with them, the more you bond emotionally.

Every year for the past five years I have spent wilderness camping with my wife Monique and members of one of the Maasai tribes in Kenya where we live with the Maasai embracing their culture and then go out with them to find and photograph the last one. of the 30 great “tutors” [African elephants whose tusks grow so long they can touch the ground] left in Africa today. This is just one example of the incredible stories that give an extra dimension to the photographs I capture, using innovative techniques and a life spent getting to know the subjects that allow me to respectfully and intimately relate to lions, elephants and great white sharks, to name a few.

And I guess one of the biggest challenges is finding a balance between trying to get photos and at the same time staying emotionally attached. So, while still knowing the very importance of what you are doing, you are ultimately exposing these animals to people all over the world to see, appreciate, and hopefully become ambassadors for the future of the world. conservation.

CNN: What tips can you share with wildlife photographers and photographers in general?

Fallow land: My advice to any young person embarking on a photography career is that it is really very important to follow your passion – whether it is photographing flowers, insects, snakes or sharks – really focus on what excites you the most because the passion ultimately fuels you every morning and makes you wake up, makes you want to be there.

And then really, follow your heart, go your chosen path, and success will usually come with that. I truly believe that as photographers, we those of us who photograph wildlife have a very important duty, and that is to showcase these animals not only for their beauty but also for the threat they pose. ‘they face. It is truly our privilege to be on the ground.

Fallow land photographing sharks underwater.

Fallow land photographing sharks underwater.

Courtesy of Chris Fallows

CNN: What’s the next step for you?

Fallow land: Well, it’s been a long journey for me as a wildlife photographer for almost 30 years since that initial discovery of these flying sharks. The journey has brought me to a point where I really want to give back. So with the proceeds of our beautiful works of art my wife and I want to buy large tracts of land in southern Africa to be rehabilitated and rescued as our legacy to hopefully leave this planet in a better way than the one we entered.

For us it has been a journey to a point where, hopefully, at the end of the day our works of art that are on the walls and desks of people and exhibitions across the world will be, more importantly, a way to give back to the very animals that gave us the privilege of seeing them in the first place.

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