David Yarrow’s photographs are striking images revealing creatures in their native habitats, in which power resonates from their eyes. Yarrow ventured to extreme environments to capture the wonderful juxtapositions that exist throughout the natural world. A photographer for nearly 30 years, his new book Encounters explores, in monochrome, an assortment of wildlife and its cohabitants, including elephants, polar bears, macaques and tribal warriors.
Wandering through this black and white space you are drawn to the contrast Yarrow has created. There are images of polar bears trudging in the distance through a bleached out snowy background (Whiteout); the effect is so stark they could have been sketched into existence
This juxtaposes with some of Yarrow’s other works, which are so visually close to creatures you can see every pore. Grumpy Monkey, of the same endearing (but humorous) quality, is a lot more focused: droplets of water hang from his fur and his eyes look at you askance.
There is a general feeling of safety versus discomfort in the exhibition. One is relaxed, gazing at delightful images of apes mirroring grumpy human expressions – and yet turn across the room, and other photographs expose the harsh reality of life in the wild. Omo Warrior is shocking in its brutality: a tribesman submerged in water casually clutches a gun, and stares at you, unabashed. His eyes tell of a world Western society could not begin to understand. Covered in tribal paint, you can see even the tiny hairs on his chest.
This is not all Yarrow has achieved; his meticulous planning has meant he has been able to create affecting images that are almost unreal.
The beautiful Wild looks like it belongs in fantasy literature, with an elegant horse frolicking beneath the crashing waves of a waterfall. One expects to see a Tolkienian character astride its back. This awe-inspiring photo is sublime in its scope – and how different from the minutiae of the rough and piercing-eyed warrior! Recent Encounters is wonderful in its diverse depiction, showing that nature can be both harsh and beautiful in its sublimity.
Our verdict: *****