At the Right Place. At the Right Time.

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Time to read 8 min

David Yarrow, recognized as one of the best-selling fine art photographers in the world, will be at Sorrel Sky Gallery - New York on Thursday, May 23, 2024 from 5-8PM.

David will give a talk about his groundbreaking work, including pieces from right here in New York City. David’s large-format, evocative, and immersive photography of life on earth is distinctive and has earned him an ever-growing following amongst art collectors.


The scenes David captures are the result of two major factors. The first is spadework. The second is access. He and his team put in countless hours doing research and scouting for locations, initiating and maintaining connections with local, national, and international public figures to photograph some of the world’s most unreachable and at times dangerous environments. The final image may be one of only two or three that he feels is good enough to make available each year. The results are intimate, evocative, bringing the viewer into close proximity with people, places, and wildlife that they may never encounter on their own.

Keep scrolling to read the story behind some of David’s images.


REAR VIEW MIRROR

I am a student of the Alfred Hitchcock brand of storytelling and there may be something rather Hitchcockian about this narrative. The beautiful girl, driving an equally beautiful car, through the most extreme of winter passes, with a wolf perched high above analysing the situation. All the assets in play seem to complement each other, but only one party is perhaps alive to all the facts - the wolf.
Tall snow berms like the ones in the photograph are not easy to find these days and our research led us to Lake Tahoe in late April. The Sierra Nevada Mountain range still gets hefty 3-foot snowfalls in March; perhaps as much as any ski area in the world and this is where we focused our efforts.
Meanwhile, the 1953 250MM Ferrari, is a precious car and we needed to be very sure there was easy access to this location. So I guess we were being greedy as we wanted deep accumulations of snow, along with fresh snow on a newly ploughed road and then, somehow or other, the means to get the Ferrari in position on the bend in the road. We have little appetite for doing banal things that come easy.
When we arrived, the height of the berms offered an opportunity to use the black wolf we sometimes bring on set. It was not a preconceived idea and we remind ourselves that it is good occasionally simply to adapt to circumstance as you find them.
As always, we thank Brooks Nader for being such a laugh to work with on set - as well as being on point in her role playing. ~ David Yarrow



WALL STREET

Someone was going to make this shot and I always felt we had a chance to bring all the constituent parts together. We have some history with ideas based on Scorsese’s epic film and the fact that I once worked on Wall Street added a sense of purpose as well as a personal connection.
Made of white Georgian marble, the temple-like facade of the NY Stock Exchange Building was inspired by the Roman Pantheon and the six Corinthian columns make for a majestic backdrop. It is an unmistakable building and when it opened its doors in 1903, it was a big moment in the history of America.
I needed a quiet day to shoot on set and that always pointed to a Sunday, but I also wanted an emphatic written reference as well as the architectural reference somewhere in the frame. The green street signposts of “Wall Street” were too high to incorporate meaningfully into the picture and I saw no real workable alternative. I sensed it really was a bridge too far to be able to include the words Wall Street and I recognised that, as always, I was being a bit visually greedy. I had no depth of field on my camera and so any sign with Wall Street on it had to be as close to the camera as the wolf, or the letters would be a blur.
But by some extraordinary stroke of luck, when I found my shooting location lying on the cobbled street, there, smack in front of me on the road, was a museum plate that spoke of Wall Street’s history. Ihad no idea it was there and at the margin this detail makes all the difference.
This was not an easy shot, but we got there and to the best of my knowledge, we got there first. ~ David Yarrow



WET WET WET

I have largely moved my focus away from wildlife over the last few years, but I am in awe of some of the work I continue to see from other photographers in this challenging and crowded space.
One assignment in the wild, that still excites me enough to take it on every year, is the sockeye salmon run in the rivers to the south of Iliamna, Alaska. It may be an annual summer event, but unlike Wimbledon, the dates are never locked down and so much depends on random variables such as the snow falls in the preceding winter, spring temperatures and the consequential river levels. In the summer of 2023, the salmon started to run about 12-14 days after the median date from the last 20 years; we had to adapt.
We had some tough days this year, but we also had our moments. This tight portrait, on a miserable rainy evening in very low light, offers a generous level of textural detail. I like working when there is no sun, especially in places like Alaska, as the narrower tonal range removes noise and elevates the subject. I know it sounds counter intuitive to wish for bad conditions, but in the field, I prefer to get wet more than I prefer to get sunburnt.
This picture has a symmetry to it and the bear’s eyes are engaged. It was a lucky glimpse of a momentand a passing testament to the camera’s capability. The operating performance of cameras has improved so much during my career and no more so than when working in low light conditions. My shutter speed was necessarily low and I was lying flat on a moving river boat, so all I can claim credit for is avoiding camera shake. To be fair, most of what I took that night was rubbish, but you only need one. ~ David Yarrow



SNOW CAT

This portrait, taken in the heart of the Siberian winter, is elevated by the weather conditions at the time. On a clear sunny day, it would have been a decent image, but it is the falling snow and the flat light that deliver the needed mood and the sense of place.
I have been deliberating about photographing a Siberian tiger in the habitat that defines it for several years, but North China - where I took this image – had, until recently, been out of bounds for foreigners since Covid. Even now, it is not the most welcoming of places. It’s a long way from home, English tongues are rare and, in the winter, it can offer indecently low temperatures.
I recognised that I would need to allocate a good amount of time in the north to wait for the snowfall. Siberian winters are extremely cold, but it does not snow that often. There are many hours spent killing time in a hotel room but the accommodation is much more comfortable than it used to be. It is such a long way from home and there is little merit planning for a three-day visit anyway. It’s an odd job sometimes: I probably invested about 120 hours, including travel time, for two six second windows of opportunity.
On this trip I worked closely with the Chinese authorities and, in retrospect, this brief encounter was only possible because of the help of two or three extremely influential Chinese people. I am reminded that access is a key word in photography and this is normally achieved by investing in people. My charm offensive with my Chinese contacts was several months long. My team knows who they are and their stature within China, but no one else needs to know.
The question that I will be asked about this picture will simply be “how on earth did you get it?”. My answer would be two-fold. I was in a bespoke vehicle with a lower window opening, smaller than a tiger’s head, but larger than a camera lens. The second part of the answer is more important: it was by showing China and the Chinese some respect. Without that there was no chance. I know some people will criticise me for working with a country with a questionable record in conservation, but life is too short and I am an artist first and foremost. ~ David Yarrow



EMPIRE OF THE SUMMER MOON

For those looking for a good book to read in these times when good books have assumed a bigger role in our daily lives, I strongly recommend Empire of the Summer Moon, The New York Times’ bestseller about the war between the Comanche tribe and the white settlers for control of the American West. The book was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize - so I am not saying anything groundbreaking in my recommendation.
The Comanche was the most powerful tribe in American History. They adapted to the horse earlier and more completely than any other plains’ tribe and they were without doubt the prototype horse tribe in North America. The white man’s 40-year war with the Comanche in the mid 19th century was the tribe’s final chapter in its 250-year crusade to fight off settlers. But their legacy lives on and the lethal inland empire dominated by the tribe is an integral part of American history.
My idea for this part of the series was to work with a Comanche descendant from their homeland in Texas and New Mexico and place him or her against today’s Manhattan Skyline. A horse was not going to work in this storyline as we thought the Hudson River would offer the best platform on which to play a layered narrative.
With the help of a friend in Colorado, we found the right Comanche for the job in Santa Fe and he was excited to collaborate on the project. He helped source the canoe and brought his warrior clothes. Again, we would stress that their pride in their heritage manifests itself in fully embracing projects that give their tribe exposure. We were looking to create art as opposed to saying anything profound. By photographing an ancestor of America’s most powerful tribe in front of modern America’s most powerful city - the lost world meeting the new world - we are simply celebrating the breadth of American history.
Joaquin Gonzalez did the Comanche proud. He managed the canoe on those waters magnificently and he looked every inch the warrior that we asked him to be.
- David Yarrow



David Yarrow at Sorrel Sky Gallery

Reach out to our team of art advisors with any questions about the works seen in this blog. We'd love to see you in the gallery, where you can enjoy the stunning work of David Yarrow in person.