NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 1 – Xiao Ge is not a talkative man. It could be because of the language barrier that exists between us or it could be that he says all he needs to say with his photographs. It has, after all, been decided that a picture is worth a thousand words.
It’s a hot Friday afternoon when we meet at the Nairobi National Park, Shirley, his contact person who was to act as translator, in tow.
There is perhaps no better setting than a park for an interview with a wildlife photographer but it wasn’t planned that way.
It was, some would say, a stroke of luck that I was assigned to cover a press conference at the Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) headquarters the morning of our interview and he was scheduled for a meeting there later that afternoon.
As we made our way to the back of the KWS offices where a camera was set up, Shirley filled Xiao in on what the press briefing had been about, the passage of the Standard Gauge Railway through the Nairobi National Park.
He wanted to know how high off the ground the trains would pass and, as I had, wondered about the effect the noise and vibrations of the trains would have on migratory patterns.
READ: Passage of railway through Nairobi Park unavoidable – Leakey
You see, wildlife has been this Chinese man’s passion since he was a teenager. “I was crazy about nature and wildlife.”
A passion that was stoked by books on Kenya’s wildlife and so when the Fine Arts academic first came to Kenya in 2010, Kenya was the natural first stop. “Among the animals I drew, I like elephant most (sic) and made it become my best subject. Due to my keen to wildlife (sic), going to Africa became my dream since then.”
His deference to the elephant is evident in his photos. In fact, two of his best shots, in his view, are of elephants and were taken at the Amboseli National Park; in one the sun sets behind an elephant and the second is of an elephant looming large with clouds that appear to be heavy with rain above it.
It’s also evident that they are moments that required an incredible amount of patience to capture. “In places like that we are the guests; the animals are the hosts, so we need to be very patient in order to discover them.”
But it isn’t just about capturing a moment for him; it’s about eliciting a sweeping emotion – the same emotion that keeps him crouched in the savannah for hours: “An appreciation of the Elephant’s majesty.”
“Once my countrymen and the rest of Asia appreciate the true cost of ivory, then and only then do I truly believe we’d have won the war on poaching.”