I have just come back from two days in Lisbon, Portugal having attended a conference on sustainability presented by the Jeronimo Martins group. I was invited along with many others to give their presentations and talk about their respected views on this. I was chosen because of my work in Sumatra on my self-funded trips their showing through powerful imagery the effect palm oil and timber manufacturing- mostly all illegal is having on this beautiful island.
Jeronimo Martin is a Portuguese corporate group that operates in food distribution and consumer products manufacturing. It operates around 2,800 stores in Portugal, Poland, and Colombia. The group is a world leader in food distribution operating throughout Europe from their main strong holds in Portugal and Poland. With operations in Colombia too. their influence on this sector is massive.
After a short flight from Manchester I was met at Lisbon airport and driven to my hotel, then later onto the venue where I went through some tests and set up my talk. When I got into my room a birthday card and chocolates were waiting for me as a welcome gift which was lovely as it had been my birthday the days earlier. Later I was taken to the venue where I went through some tests and set up my talk up for the following day.
My plan was to show through images taken on my trips to Sumatra the beauty of this country, its wildlife more so those crucially endangered Sumatran Orangutans and the destruction of this country at the hands of palm oil plantations and timber manufactures.
I was careful not to come over as an expert there as these guys knew their stuff, it was my aim through my photography to show what I know and have seen. I got to the venue early, got use to the layout and had a coffee and then the people started to arrive. I was introduced to many people including the CEO of the whole group. I had around 30 minutes in which to show the beauty, horror and suffering from what Id seen fro myself in Sumatra and get over my message to this distinguished audience.
I was on in the afternoon which gave me time to settle in and watch the others.I never really plan a talk so much as in the images go together and speak for me at times. I just talk from my own passion, knowledge and understanding of that situation I’m showing at the time. I have a basic framework I work too but on the whole I can remember every moment and every image once I look at an image and the story behind that.
My talk went well, it was my aim to take them on a journey to Sumatra through powerful images and emotive music, you could hear a pin drop as they watched and saw those images of what is happening there and those beautiful Sumatran orangutans I spent time with and have left behind. My aim to show, shock and reveal the truth of the palm oil industry, and the illegal logging I think really hit home to everyone there. I dont think there was one person in that room that will never forget the words- Sumatran, Palm oil and Orangutans.
I was really impressed with everyone’s talks and the powerful message to this well established company’s mission statement where they are substituting palm oil for vegetable oil. The opening speech from the CEO was very powerful and set the tone for the whole day for me.
Since my first trip to Sumatra I made a promise to those Orangutans I spent time with in the jungles there that I would do my best in order that their voices would be heard and their plight. To this day I have kept to this promise and below are a few of the talks, articles and presentations I have done since that first visit to Sumatra.
I return to Sumatra next year also to carry on my work and passion for these beautiful apes I have been fascinated with since childhood and I hope my images will always remind people of just how beautiful they are and that we are them and they are us as I say. Click on each image below and it will take you to the place that image was taken or article/photo published.
I was invited to talk about the Orangutans as part of the Sebastiao Salgado “Genesis” exhibition NHM 2013.
I flew home full of pride and joy having seen and heard the amazing work being done by committed people there which is having a massive effect on an industry that drives the need for such high demand for palm oil. I was there as a wildlife photographer and I have seen the end result to whats happening in Sumatra, to be around those powerful people that can possible change what I have seen on the frontline there was wonderful. I became a wildlife photographer to place a frame around something I had seen in the wild, to then show to people what beauty we have around us. In the case of Sumatra not only the beauty but also the devastation that is happening there.
To use my images for the good of a creature I have loved since a small child is a dream and as a wildlife photographer I have a duty of care not only to my peers who view my work and want to know how I took that image and the skills used but mostly importantly to those animals I see and spend time with in the wild. This for me is truly the greatest thing about being a wildlife photographer.
Being real to myself and more importantly my work is key and has been since I first picked up a DSLR. My love for wildlife stretches over three decades and it was an honor to attain this conference and talk about these great apes. Thank you to all the staff at Jeronimo Martins for looking after me and booking everything and taking care of my stay there in Lisbon. I met some wonderful people and contacts and I hope to be doing more of this to help those Sumatran Orangutans in the coming months.
Ask yourselves what you can do for wildlife, not what wildlife can do for you. The three charities I have worked with in Sumatra that were mentioned in my powerful talk can be seen on the following links – Sumatran Orangutan Society- SOS , Orangutan Information Center – OIC Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme – SOCP Please help and support their work its a massive battle out there in Sumatra and there aren’t many charities on the ground there, these guys are on the coalface, the cutting edge and in some parts hell on earth once you see what humans can do to their planet and the animals.
To see more of my talks or book one please see the following link, many thanks.