Through Diverse Looking Glasses: Animal and Human Bonding

Posted: October 28, 2016


The bonding between human and animals is a unique relationship that has been present since the pre- historic era of human civilization. It is a motivational relationship that mutually inspires both of the partners. This relationship not like human to human bonding, it is not confined in any particular social stricture. This relationship is free of communicational compulsions imposed by society or politics. It gives a wonderful sense of freedom and peace that cannot be found in any other relationship. The humans got benefitted from animals since time immemorial. The faithful companion dog, an obedient and burden- bearer horse and donkey, the bovines with multiple utilities, the felines and reptiles – providing fur, leather etc., the birds and insects helping for the cultivation by carrying pollens and fruit seeds and the list would start towards endless journey if the counting goes on. Though the most popular contribution by animals was always meat, this includes fish as well. Medicinal elements are also extracted from animals which many times yield to life- saving molecules.

From the above paragraph, it is evident that animals are human- companions and humans are mostly the privileged beneficiaries from versatile animal contributions. However, it is chiefly not the material benefits to be discussed in this paper, rather the spiritual connection between animals and humans remain the focal point here. Animals have immense power to impact human mind and that leaves always a positive note for human beings. The animals belong from different kind of geographical identities. Some of them are wild, stay in forest and some of them are domesticated in human residences or farms. Humans at times perceive some animals as shrewd but the truth is- animals cannot be shrewd, they just adapt to the environment and its changes, they just respond to basic instincts especially hunger. However, even the fiercest tiger's brain would be several times simpler than the simplest man on this earth. It is always a dreamlike treat to spend time with an animal, unless one gives a feeling of insecurity to the animal or threats it in any way. Several professionals have worked to develop this aspect between animal and human bonding, especially the photographers and the environmentalists. In order to understand the real and multiple dimensions in human and animals boding with a holistic background of nature, we need to understand the various ways through which this relationship could be explored. Learning always comes from experience and the experience shared by experts are always more valuable. Therefore, before we decide how to develop or work on the bonding between human and animals, we need to be sure whether we are actually ready for it or not. This dissertation aims to concentrate on the nature of the human- animal relationship and the perception of people regarding this bonding. I have picked up three eminent personalities, broadly engaged in exploring this unique relationship, i.e. Mattias Klum- a renowned Swedish photographer, Lawrence Anthony- a South African global conservationist, a bestselling author and an environmentalist and Gregory Colbert- a Canadian filmmaker cum photographer. This paper would attempt to illuminate further on the perception of human- animal/ nature relationship through the looking glasses of these famous personalities.

Chapter I: Journey of Mattias Klum- a Wildlife Photographer

Mattias Klum is a Swedish photographer from Uppsala town, Sweden. This 48 years old ace photographer has a number of other identities as well. He is a coveted international academician and has a number of published works on wildlife or nature photography. He has series of published international magazines to his glory, for instance, “National Geographic, Wildlife Conservation, Audubon, GEO, Terre Sauvage, Stern, Der Spiegel, and the New York Times" (n.p. National Geographic). Klum started exploring the genre of nature photography in his early youth. His versatile interests not only encompass animals but also plants, culture and ethnic traces of various tribes. Klum has also authored few books that reveal his in-depth analytical view on his area of interest, for example, Horse People,Exploring the Rain Forest, The Human Quest, Borneo Rain Forest etc. unfold his dexterity in the genre of  nature photography( His articulated publications amaze the readers.

Nature photography or wildlife photography needs extensive traveling and is generally comprised of unique experiences. A vibrant and creative mind as Klum's has certainly gathered so many sundry experiences that are enough to write volumes of books. It is obvious that Klum always felt a strong affinity towards nature and animals. His versatile experiences unfold his special bonding with animals and the strange encounters he had with them. If surveying world’s most incredible wild vicinities was a contest, Mattias Klum could be one of the toughest contenders to win the championship. Klum examined the tree- tops in Borneo from a hot- air balloon. He nearly kissed a cobra, had a close meeting with a lioness, and has watched mating African lions literally from an arm’s length. Mattias Klum incessantly keeps on gathering wondrous experiences while he portrays the vast world of nature and its miscellaneous elements through his camera lenses and publications. Mattias Klum’s life study tells us how thrilling and ever challenging a wildlife photographer’s career can be.

Mattias Klum’s vision towards exploring nature and animals is intensely grounded on the motto of inspiring people to act promptly for the sustenance of environment by explaining the aesthetics, vulnerability and threats that the contemporary world poses towards nature ( Klum opines that due to global warming and man- made catastrophes natural world is set on an inferno of decadence as well as destruction. He explores the ways by which the world can be saved and nourished. The future of earth depends on our approach towards it and Klum performs his part elaborately in all ways possible. Klum is also a filmmaker; he upholds his ideologies in his projects. Klum stresses on the fact that not only mechanical duties but in order to understand nature and animals we need to get emotionally connected to them.  Klum relentlessly keeps on focusing through his camera lenses to cater the world with better and true pictures of nature and wildlife. In order to create a bonding with animals, it is imperative to understand about the places where they originate and stay. Therefore, Klum not only takes photographs of animals and puts forward pleas to protect them but he also performs his part to conserve the abode of those animals, i.e. the forestry. Klum repeatedly mentions how important it is to love the animal instead of getting afraid of them. We must not pose any threat to them and let them stay in peace in their respective areas as it is their fundamental right. Klum has several unique experiences under his cap. He is explicitly in love with animals. His role is that of a parent towards the nature and animals. The picture below shows how animals too crave for love and care. The prominent expression in Klum’s face tells the viewers that he is deeply attached to animals and the ape in his lap also seems to be reciprocal and comfortable with Klum.

"Thoughtfulness begins with seeing. My job as a photographer is to make that seeing easier. What we appreciate, what fascinates us, we will strive to preserve" (Arts and Lectures). Klum is a highly sensitive and emotional person when it comes to wildlife photography and certainly the animals. In a lecture, Klum shares his unique and famous experience with a lioness with which he had a face to face interview. In a video released by National Geographic channel, Klum poignantly narrates his entire experience with the lioness that he prefers to call the ‘lion lady'. Klum was taking pictures in a forest beside a stream with a continuous sound of water around, amidst grovels scattered all over. Suddenly he found a lioness drinking water from the water- route created by the stream. The lioness was quite close to Klum's position. Klum could understand from her body language that she had eaten enough for that day. The lioness noticed Klum and curiously started examining him from a distance and started walking towards Klum in a very casual way. Klum says that he suddenly felt very small in front of the animal in the lap of nature though he felt scared too. Klum decided to stay still and just moved his camera lenses. The lioness started crawling and apparently it seemed to Klum that she was in an attacking mood. Suddenly the lioness stopped around 15 feet away from Klum and rolled on its back. Then she put her legs up in the air and stared at Klum upside down.  An ardent wildlife photographer Klum could not let this precious moment pass in vain. He focused his camera somehow and the photograph here shows his skill:

Klum further adds in the video that a wildlife photographer doesn't need to carry a gun, nor he needs to be a Tarzan-like muscleman. Klum says that on the contrary a wildlife photographer needs to be sensible, modest and intelligent to work in a forest with animals around. The lioness then got up and walked into the forest, but it left a deep impact in Klum's mind. Klum perceives from this experience that the lioness might have tried to tell her to take their photographs and ask the world to help them survive as very few of them are alive. Klum had an adrenaline rush while experiencing this encounter with the lioness, at the same time he felt blessed that his life was spared and he felt grateful to the animal for giving him the opportunity to have this experience. This experience of Klum unfolds the uniqueness of wildlife photography and unpredictability one can face in a forest as the law of the jungle is completely different from the law of the land; once you are there, you have to understand and abide by its own set of rules. Mattias Klum constantly stresses on the importance and need to maintain as well as restore biodiversity in all his lectures, films, publication etc. Through his photographs, he imparts the message and plea to save wildlife and animals. In his books on rainforest he narrates how the biodiversity is getting crippled day by day there, especially the small animals like birds and fishes are the worst sufferers.

Mattias Klum has clicked this picture that clearly“shows that selective logging has long-lasting implications, with populations of some bird species showing little sign of recovery even 40 years after timber extraction” (Tobias).

As a wildlife photographer, one needs to be watchful and try to maintain a balance between his/ her passion and pertain by the attitude that he/ does not create any disturbance for the inhabitants of the forest. One must be particular about his ethics that no animal should feel endangered by his presence. Mattias Klum has always abided by these set of demureness. It is quite enthralling to read that to which extent one can love animals and nature altogether from Mattias Klum's publications and lectures.

 His immense passion for wildlife and forestry reflects not only through his camera endeavors but also from his writings, "It started as a dream. After a number of journeys and expeditions to various rain forest areas across the world, I found the original, Borneo- the rain forest of rain forests- immeasurably rich, filled to the brim with unbelievable adaptations and inexplicable miracles" (Klum ii). Borneo rainforest has a vast range of assorted species of animals. Borneo is also famous for its thriving foliages and range of insects as well. Klum captures the attention of the readers in his book Borneo Rain Forest with wonderfully articulated descriptions and ravishing photographs of the wildlife there. Borneo has several kinds of animals in it, such as, orang Utan, elephants, clouded leopards, rhinos, amphibians, reptiles, invertebrates, birds, fishes and many other of them. Mattias Klum uses his camera as much as possible to imprison these animals in his frame. Mattias Klum explored the manifold beauty of Borneo rainforest with his scrupulous efforts and honest dedication. He faced events of natural calamities, but undaunted by the adversities, Klum never thought to back off and discard his venture to discover untold stories of Borneo rain forest. Klum, rather discovers beauty even in the calamitous weather, "A thunderstorm comes and the whole rain forest changes colors. Clouds and a damp mist spread quickly into the forest. A sinister rumble nears. The silvered leaf monkeys are worried and grumbling in a subdued voice…enormous trees topple" (Klum 64). This is the epitome of affection and affinity Mattias Klum has always felt towards the animals and mother- nature. Even the intimidating experiences do not affect Klum's intense passion for wildlife. Evidently this is the reason he is such a celebrated international photographer in the world of international photography.

Klum has got several awards for his outstanding contribution as a photographer. His awards include a gold medal from the Uppsala City Council, he got acknowledgment from the king of Sweden, he got nominated for the category of Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, Klum also became the ambassador for both IUCN and World Wildlife Fund. However, none of this acclamations can tamper with his chief focus- wildlife photography. His intense passion for animals and nature always keep him grounded and down to earth. Mattias Klum is a curious sojourner in the quest for establishing stability in the entire ecosystem which has been affected severely by industrialization and extensive urban development. We look up to Mattias Klum as one of the most promising and highly talented wildlife photographer, who has a heart made of gold. Klum not only imparts aesthetic pleasure to his viewers or readers but also keeps up constant effort to inspire them in favor of nature- conservation. Klum showcases and updates his activities in his website. Anybody can check it and get inspired at any point. Mattias Klum also organises fund raisers for the animals in distress. Mattias Klum’s projects always reflect his honesty and simplicity that helps his audience/ viewers to adhere to the subjects of his works. His pure passion for wildlife reflects not only in his works but also in the speeches and lectures he delivers. Mattias Klum is a highly sensitive man with exceptional photographic eye.

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