Interview with Gavin Thurston

What made you decide to pursue photography? 

I was very keen at art when I was at school. It was one of my favourite subjects. However I found it very frustrating that what I could see with my eyes and what I had in my head never seemedto translate to  I think a chimpanzee with crayons or a paintbrush would have produced better art than me. But when I first picked up a camera I found it relatively easy to capture the image I wanted. Trying to capture ‘the moment’ with perfect framing and light. The results I saw were as I imagined. I could then share those precise moments that I had witnessed and they translated perfectly to whoever I showed them to. Photography can be a powerful medium. So, as a frustrated and not particularly talented artist I steered towards photography and the moving image to satisfy my artistic passion.


Where did you takeyour favourite shot/footage?

I can’t narrow down a favourite shot, but I have three places on this planet that I find exciting for filming wildlife;the coast of Katmai National Park in Alaska, USA. The forests of Republic of Congo in Central Africa and the wild interior of Sumatra, Indonesia. The reason I like these locations is that they have a raw almost untouched wildness to them, big charismatic animals and all filming has to be done on foot. Just for starters, Katmai has coastal brown bears, wolves, moose, elk, foxes, beavers, otters and bald eagles. Congo has forest elephant, gorillas, chimpanzees, buffalo, leopard, monkeys and more. And Sumatra has tigers, orang-utans, sun bears, clouded leopard, gibbons and way way more to  The challenge is there for the taking.


Are you noticing a change in the scenery as a result of global warming?

Climate change is definitely manifesting itself acrossthe  The biggest change I’ve noticed is the unpredictability of the seasons. The weather is now more extreme. That can come in the way of more severe drought or heavier and longer rainfall causing floods. Where perhaps climate change is most noticeable is when I have revisited some mountainous areas for filming and over a relatively short space of time have seen a dramatic retreat of many glaciers.


What message do you try to convey to people through your work?

I hope that by showing the amazing variety and complexity of creatures and the beauty of the natural world, it will spark an interest and passion for viewers. Once someone takes an interest they are more likely to care about the fate of their newly discovered passion. As an example, if someone watches a programme about say leatherback turtles in our oceans but they find out find out that single use plastic bags are choking and  killing these beautiful creatures. The viewer may make the effort to change their shopping habits and have a more environmental outlook by using alternative re-useable shopping bags.


What is something you have learnt from nature and you would recommend to others? 

Personally I need nature in my life and I get genuine pleasure from watching wildlife and spending time inthe  Humans are part of nature and evolved alongside millions of other species. We are supposedly intelligent beings living on a diverse jewel of a planet and yet we are knowingly destroying it. We should make sure we leave space for natures biodiversity to keep the planet in balance and should embrace living alongside nature for our own physical and mental wellbeing.

See Gavin Thurston speaking about his experience at Emirates Airline Festival of Literature.

Gavin Thurston: Journeys in the Wild: The Secret Life of a Cameraman

Saturday 08 February, 18:00 – 19:00

Gavin is also part of the panel discussion Dispatches from the Wilderness: Ali Al Saloom, Gavin Thurston, Kate Humble & Miriam Lancewood

Thursday 06 February, 19:00 – 20:00


Gavin Thurston: Journeys in the Wild: The Secret Life of a Cameraman

Dispatches from the Wilderness: Ali Al Saloom, Gavin Thurston, Kate Humble & Miriam Lancewood