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David Yarrow - In His Own Words

But Why is the Rum Gone?

Anguilla, Caribbean, 2022

“Captain Morgan is a name we all know. The Welsh Privateer, whom the rum brand is named after, was, by all accounts, a menace in the West Indies in the 17th century, raiding many Spanish settlements under the authority of the British flag and then taking the bounty himself. His life was romanticised after his death and he became the inspiration for pirate-themed works of fiction across a range of genres.

His apparent lack of ethics nearly 400 years ago has done Captain Morgan’s owners Diageo no harm, with the brand selling over $500m a year in America alone. Rum brings out the pirate in all of us and Disney made full use of that with the catch phrase of their Pirates of the Caribbean franchise being ‘But why is the rum gone?’

I wanted to film pirate characters in as authentic a beach bar as I could find. The game of naming one’s favourite beach bar is played worldwide and will always be a deeply personal choice, as with “Death Row meal” or “fishing cabin guests”. In the UK, there are fewer pirates and it’s a world removed from the Caribbean, but my personal favourite bars by the sea are the Applecross Inn in Strathcarron, Scotland and the Sloop Inn near my home in Thurlestone, Devon. Both have a rustic charm and attract clientele smelling of the sea, but Captain Morgan types are rare.

Much further afield, it is worth the trip alone, to visit the renowned beach bar and restaurant Parador La Huella in Jose Ignacio, Uruguay, to see beach entertainment done properly. It is effortlessly magical and has rightly earned its place in beach bar history. I was in Buenos Aires with a friend not too long ago and I said we had to go there for lunch. He did not thank me when, after six hours, we were still an hour away, but when we arrived he was forever thankful. It is that good.

But for this shoot, we were necessarily in the Caribbean and much of the beach side offerings I know are modular, stiff and banal. I wanted raw authenticity and a hint of historically bad behaviour, a place where upon arrival you hope that the walls - or what’s left of them - can talk.

Bankie Banx’s Dune Preserve in Anguilla is that bar. It is the sole reason some people come to Anguilla and yet it is hopelessly uncommercial. At times the bar becomes an ‘“Honesty Bar”. Part of its charm is that almost everyone that works there is high.

So, the Dune was where we shot - there was no Plan B. I hope all those that see this photograph, rather wish they were there that night. What could possibly go wrong with that crew? I think everyone did a great job and of course Bankie Banx steals the show. He does not play supporting actor well anywhere, let alone in his own joint.”

Who's Gonna Tell Him

“Travelling to Antarctica is not easy at the best of times, but during Covid it has been a bridge too far for most sensible people; the 2020 season was impossible and 2021 was extremely challenging. In the last 24 months there have been very few visitors, but even that did not stop Covid infections at some of the scientific bases. Visitors have been unable to get in and some have been unable to get out. It’s been the perfect storm.

We finally made it there last week after our plans in late November were scuppered due to Omicron concerns. My son and I camped for four nights in a modest tent near the German research base at Atka Bay, but the sizeable 25,000 strong Emperor Penguin colony near the base had dissipated with the majority of the adult penguins returning to fish the open sea. The remainder of the colony had moved to the sea ice and unfortunately to a place inaccessible without ropes and harnesses. This would have been a long way to go for nothing.

Fortunately, we had been made aware of this development by the wonderful team at White Desert, so at their recommendation we were joined in Atka by Chamonix mountaineering legend - Sam Beauguy - who would keep us safe on the hazardous treks to the colony. To be fair he “base jumps” for fun, so this was never going to be a challenge for him.

For our part, we did not expect to be in a tent and crossing crevasses to film penguins in Antarctica this January but when the opportunity arose we had to grab it. The 24-hour days were long and occasionally cold, but we kept our spirits up with card games, Sam’s cooking, loads of laughter and a bit of whisky.

This is a lucky image; the light is kind, there is some decent iceberg context in the background and perfect symmetry at both layers. Emperor Penguins can behave in the most human of ways, especially in the duty of care. There is very much an adult conversation going on here and as a result it is a photograph I think we can relate to.

I am in awe of the men and women that spend a whole year on the ice in Antarctica. It is the world’s last great untamed place and their commitment to helping preserve its beauty is very humbling.

We also raise our glasses to the logistical tenacity of Patrick Woodhead and his team at White Desert. This was not an easy assignment and the scale of operation they run from the ice at the bottom of the world is quite remarkable. They have daily challenges that are really difficult to relate to and they tackle them with humour, experience and common sense.”


Antarctica, 2022

“I have sensed for some time, that the art world is looking for more from photographers and I have been warned of the dangers of being too earnest with a camera, which is why I spend less time than I used to working on encounters demanding literal documentation. It is a crowded space and every day sensational natural world images are garnered from around the planet from accomplished wildlife photographers. I am just not sure where that space is going at a time of such abundance of quality content. I certainly don’t see much of it on show at Art Miami and that is a good barometer. Peter Beard was way way ahead of his time.

His mate, Andy Warhol said that “Art is what you can get away with” and I do get his point. It is for the viewer to decide what is dull and generic, not the practitioner, but I know from my own errors that photographs of decisive moments in the field, or indeed simple portraits, can totally fail to engage third parties who were not there at the time. They can work, but the quest for emotional engagement has never been harder. It is a tough crowd out there in 2022. There is “no importance of being earnest”.

These musings leant heavily on me as I deliberated what to do differently this time in Antarctica. Installation art interests me as a storyteller and the opportunities are limitless as it is fresh. We decided to bring some canvases down to Antarctica as they can be erected and taken down in 20 minutes without being invasive; a bit like a tent on the ice.

This preconceived image is lifted by two factors that I could not have influenced. Firstly, the textural beauty of the Emperor penguin; she is so LA and secondly the fact that the weather was tough. It just works and I know it will divide opinion - but that’s what you need - not ambivalence.”

(For the avoidance of doubt, our installed art in Antarctica was erected on location under IATA guidelines and without the Emperor penguins anywhere near us. We relied on constant weather conditions and then did the maths on the composite).


South Africa, 2022

“It’s been quite a revelation to work with Nikon’s new flagship camera, the Z9, in Africa this week. I don’t think photography is really about cameras, but having said that, this new model is so damn good, I can’t really imagine life without it and that’s after just four days in the field.

Speaking of which, I can’t imagine life without Kevin Richardson - The Lion Whisperer. We have worked together now for eight years, and the length of that friendship has fostered both trust and understanding. This image from last night is fairly special and is a testimony to the relationship; well that and a camera body that performs exceptionally in the most challenging of briefs.

Kevin continues to do so much to raise awareness of the plight of the lion and I am fortunate to have him in my life. Without him, there is no picture.”


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