Face To Face *
For my daugther, Deniz Derbent...
In order to shoot
portraits of animals in the wild it is necessary come
face to face with them. This has been a challenging task
for me because observing their ways of living has forced
me to face myself. I hope that the act of looking through
and reading this book will have a similar effect. I would
like everyone to be faced with nature, with animals and
with themselves, for in the last 24 hours, 3 among existing
each the product of 4 billion years of evolution 2,
have become extinct. Unfortunately nothing less than a
massacre is going on today, even while we are going about
our daily business, commuting, working, enjoying ourselves
and sleeping peacefully at home.
How hard we have worked to
bring about this state of affairs! What lies behind this
situation are factors such as attaining higher living
standards, increasing consumption and opening up more
areas for settlement. Today in net figures, we use up
and waste 40% of biological production 3.
Those living in the USA, Canada, the UK and other developed
countries make up about 23% of the world population, but
they use approximately 80-90% of the world’s natural
resources 4. Of course these resources are not only consumed to meet man’s needs.
Natural resources are also destroyed by accidents, waste
disposal, forest fires, commercial interests and, sometimes,
the sheer pleasure of pulling the trigger.
We are drawing closer and closer to the end. It
is estimated that in the coming century 30 species will
become extinct each day. As a result, half of all species
will disappear completely during this century 5.
1 Peter Raven, botanist,
Director of Missouri Botanical Garden, Professor of Biology,
University of Washington.
2 Stuart L. Pimm, Professor of English, University of
3 Peter Raven.
4 Peter Raven.
5 Stuart L. Pimm.
When asked, “Do you like animals?” most of
us give a positive answer. So it makes me wonder, since
everyone likes animals, how it is that after arms sales
and drug trafficking, the biggest money still comes from
the trade in animals. Who, I wonder, pays thousands of
dollars for dried tiger penises. And who shoots a rhinoceros
in one leg to prevent it from escaping so that he can
cut off its horn for the aphrodisiac substances it supposedly
In the last 200 years, 60 species of mammals have become extinct 6.
In contrast the world human population has increased from
2.5 million to 5.7 million since the 1950s. This figure
is estimated to double again in the next 50 years.7
During seven years of wild life photography I have met people who have
dedicated their whole lives to animals. I have seen people
who have chosen to do this just to ease the life of a
lion, with no thought of fame, prizes or material gain.
I have met people who have left their own country to live
in the forest because they had fallen in love with a lion.
And I have been coming across more and more people of
this sort in recent years. Such a life has become preferable to these
people than living in a city.
Until I went on my first photo safari in South Africa, I was no different
from many other animal lovers. I knew I loved animals,
but all I did was watch their extinction. However, after
this photo safari the concept of ‘the love of animals’
began to take on a different meaning for me. Meeting these
living beings, which do not do the slightest harm to nature
and which do not consume more than they need, has gradually
increased the love and respect I feel for them. Particularly
the cats, which I had greatly admired since chiIdhood,
became a focus of attention for me. Instead of being a photographer who travels in order to take
photographs, I have become someone who takes photographs
simply in order to be there with the animals and to share
the things I witness with the world.
During the time I have spent with animals in the wild, besides the sense
of priviledge to be near to them, I have also learnt many
things from them.
6 Stuart L. Pimm
7 Norman Myers, specialist in envıronmental development, writer.
I admired and respected them; I observed that they did
not claim more living area than they really needed, that
they were never aggressive towards others except when
they were hungry, that they never acted falsely, and that they did not damage their environment,
and even helped to protect the balance of nature. From
them I learnt how to be patient. While looking for an
animal, I learnt how to renew my hope with each passing
moment. While tracking them, I learnt how many disappointments
I could go through in a single day.
Reading animal behaviour studies, I combined what
I read with the experience I had gained in nature and
I learnt how to reason, how to conjecture and how to make
deductions while tracking them.
In Africa there is a saying: ‘ A good tracker becomes the animal
itself and thus finds it.’ When I was able to combine
this information with my feelings I became a good tracker,
and only then was I able to see the animals. While experiencing
all these things, what I thought, and what I wanted everybody
to think, was this: wild animals are not any less part
of nature than we are and they have more right to nature
than we have because of the way they live. Whatever harm
we cause to their right to live, for whatever reason,
comes back to us manifold. Now, at the start of the 21st
century, we should pause and review the things we have
irrevocably lost and we should change our attitudes accordingly.
We must not forget that the the number of animals we can
introduce to our children only by means of photographs
is rapidly increasing. In other words, eventually nature
will be so diminished
that when we can see animals only in photographs
our own lives will be in jeopardy. A day will come when
even we will no longer exist.
And Face To Face
This book, which covers seven years of photography, consists
of two parts, firstly, the big cats and secondly, other
animals. My love and admiration for the big cats
have shaped my work as a whole. Wherever I went, they
were my priority. Among the seven species of big cats
still existing, the ones I photographed primarily were
the Bengal tiger, the lion, the leopard and the cheetah.
The first part of the book covers these big cats, which all belong to
the Felidae family.
The first name in Latin written next to their names indicates
their genus and the second shows their species. Below
that line, the phrase, ‘in danger of extinction’,
indicates that these animals are included in the
red list of CITES 1 or of IUCN 2. Both of these organisations list endangered species in various categories
according to the seriousness of the threat to their survival
and the priorities in their protection. I have indicated
the animals included in those lists regardless of category.
According to statistics, the situation of these animals
has not improved
from previous years and it has not been possible
to remove them from the lists. In addition, the life spans
of all the animals included in the book are given.
Which searching for the big cats, I needed to meet and learn about the
other animals which were related with them, that is those
which share the same natural environment , so that I could
track them. For this reason, on all my trips, I have photographed
many animals other than the big cats. You will find them
in the second part of the book.
Although it may seem that wildlife photography involves certain risks
and difficulties, in reality it is an attractive and interesting
occupation. For someone who loves nature and animals all
the physical tasks and problems are outweighed by what
one experiences in nature. One is able to overcome such
difficulties as making extended and never-ending journeys,
all kinds of accidents on the roads, tropical diseases,
not being able to find a doctor or necessary medicines,
sometimes not even being able to find food and many other
1 CITES. “ Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species”
In the list prepared in accordance with this agreement,
the most critical danger is shown by Appendix 1 definition.
As the danger decreases it is defined as App.2 and App.3.
Turkey joined CITES by signing the Agreement in 1994.
2 IUCN “International Union for the Conservation of Nature”
also has a list of species in danger of extinction. This
list, known as the Red List, contains the following categories:
Critically Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN),
Vulnerable(VU) and, lastly, Lower Risk (LR).
However, the really serious
problems I encountered were quite different . It was not
at all easy to find solutions to these problems, which
were not discernable from the outside. This was perhaps
the most difficult aspect of the job. However, I was not
alone. Although this book bears my name, there is someone
else who has put as much effort into it as I have. That
person is my partner, Füsun Saka. She stayed awake
with me all night when I felt worried and stressed wondering,
“Will I be able to find the tiger?” even before
I set out on a trip. She managed to reach me
by phone in whatever remote corner of the world
I happened to be, in order to raise my morale by assuring
me I would find the big cat I was after. By her extraordinary and unfathomable
skill she solved the technical problems I encountered
while travelling. Lastly, and most importantly, she gave
me unconditional support in carrying out a project which brings
little material gain. She has played a significant role
in the accomplishment of this study and the compilation
of this book.
For these reasons, I would like everyone to know, while reading this
book and looking at the photographs, that Füsun Saka
contributed her share to each shot. For she has really
been the moral force and life-giving sponsor of the work
I have been carrying out all these years.
*Translation from Turkish to English by Lesley Tahtakilic
For more information & e-mail to Suha DERBENT: firstname.lastname@example.org