The Lion's Den
The Lion's Den
South Africa, 2022
46” x 102” Unframed 61” x 117” Framed Edition of 20
35” x 77” Unframed 50” x 92” Framed Edition of 20
The Wolf of Main Street - taken in 2015 - started my storytelling adventures as a photographer and in retrospect it was a pivotal moment in my career. I enjoyed the cognitive process and making a picture as opposed to taking it and the result resonated with an audience that was, perhaps, a little tired of my literal work.
I don’t think it pays to be too earnest and photographs that ask questions, rather than give answers, appeal to those who prefer to interpret rather than be taught. The wolf on the bar offered more authenticity than generic wildlife work and that served as a prompt to me.
Seven years on and it was time to raise the bar literally and metaphorically. I wondered whether we could play on the expression - The Lion’s Den - by introducing a lion into my bar series. The only place where this production would be possible was at Kevin Richardson’s lion sanctuary in South Africa; we have partnered for eight years and the collaboration has been mutually beneficial.
The Dinokeng reserve north of Pretoria is a long way from my comfort zone of the mountain bars of Montana but the premise was the same, tell a bar story offering contextuality in both decor and clientele. I wanted the vibe to be emphatically colonial sub-Saharan Africa.
However, Kevin has no bars on his property and we knew that we had no choice but to build one. The positive was that he felt one of his favourite lions under his care - BobCat - would enjoy the adventure of a new attraction in his acreage. Provided I was safely in a cage, I could try and capture Kevin enticing Bobcat along a bar like a catwalk.
If we were successful, we could then introduce a cocktail of characters once BobCat - like Elvis - had left the building. Bobcat behaved exactly as Kevin suggested and had little interest in leaving his new playground. He was having way too much fun. Shooting at night, however, gave us the luxury of time and we called in the rest of the cast when Bobcat went home.
I look at the end result of that day and ask myself - who would not want to have a drink in this “Lion’s Den”? It has absolutely everything a good bar should have and, of course, an adult male lion bossing it.
~ David Yarrow