Stuart Arnold’s photo, “Tuck Shop,” won our August Photo Contest. When we asked Stuart where to send his prize, we found out he lived and worked in Botswana. There was no way we weren’t going to ask him a few questions.
MPEX: “Tuck Shop” (above) is part of a series you’re working on. Can you tell us about that?
Stuart Arnold: Children and mothers have unique relationships, and while working on this project I have come to appreciate some of the many facets of culture and how families work under the most meagre or lavish of times. Visiting the impoverished, I’ve met the most humble and warmest people, I’ve discovered meek and courageous people in all levels of our community, together with some very demanding individuals without doubt, and numerous variations on the perceived roll of a mother in the growth, protection and nurturing of the children of Maun village.
It is never my intention to focus on the poor, the needy or to criticise any of the subjects of my photographs, merely to reveal people as I find them or as they wish to be portrayed. The appearance of my images is not intended to be complimentary or derogatory, but somewhere between black and white and colour, based purely on tones and textures in the method of photography I pursue and I hope to publish the project as a book before the end of this year. https://www.facebook.com/MaunMothers
You are now living in Botswana and it’s a fundamental component of your work. Are you from Botswana? If not, what brought you there?
I’m originally from West London in England and came to Botswana in 1993, the driving force being a love of wildlife, kindled by the television documentaries with David Attenborough about the Kalahari desert that have been an inspiration to me.
Besides the photographs for your book, what other sorts of projects do you do?
Most of my photography is based in the tourism sector, the many camps and lodges in the Okavango Delta and Chobe/Kasane areas being my clients for the past years. It’s a local joke that I’ve possibly photographed more tents than any one else alive, however, I think of myself as more of a location specialist. At every opportunity I get into the bush, either making pictures or guiding clients on photographic safaris, wildlife photography remains a passion.
What’s your favorite thing about photographing Botswana?
I think the daily challenges are what keep me making images in Botswana. We get into some quite remote locations and have to make everything work. Just last week I was under a safari vehicle changing a clutch slave cylinder in order to get to a leopard. I did the job in about 15 minutes. The leopard was spotted by our other truck and turned out to be one of the best sightings of leopard I’ve ever had, a mother and 8-9 month old cub on a red lechwe kill. A couple of side striped jackals turned up, and once the leopard cub was seen to be safe in a tree by her mother the jackals were chased of the kill as only a leopard can, full on attack. I’ve never seen a jackal take off at such speed; one was within 3 feet of losing its life. It was impossible to photograph as it was almost dark, but something I’ll not forget anytime soon and this is what keeps me going back to the bush with a camera time and again. (Must get a newer Nikon soon.)
Visit Stuart’s website for more amazing images.