Vernissage David Yarrow - Leonhard's Gallery

Becoming David Yarrow: The Story Behind The Success

January 9, 2019

David Yarrow is a talent that needs no introduction. His heartfelt and intimate documentation of wildlife across the world has moved and shocked every spectator able to witness the works in real life. But before David Yarrow became the renowned photographer, one reaching greater heights with every adventure he ventures on, he was just another photographer selling his works on the corner of the street. In our interview with Mr. Yarrow, we reflect on the past and the road to his present successes, whilst also looking forward.

What was the biggest change from you as a beginning photographer to the photographer you are now?

I think you should become a better photographer as you get older. If you look at the bestselling photographers in the world right now, I’m probably one of the younger ones. The two careers where I think you get better with age are authors and photographers. It’s the aggravation of your mistakes, life experience, but also being in a position where you have more resources. The better you get, everyone wants to work with you, and that gives you access to better results. It becomes a virtuous circle.

On the other hand: photography has a lot to do with emotion. All these pictures that I’ve taken for “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” hopefully emit that. As you get older, I believe your ability gets better to translate that. It has nothing to do with getting to know your camera. I know it just as well as when I began. I’ve become more in tune with the psychology behind it, and that has made things more contextual and thus stronger.

I started selling pictures on the corner of the streets for 10 pounds, and recently a photograph of mine sold for 120.000 pounds.

You’ve also started using color in your most recent work, while most of your previous work has appeared in black and white. Why was that? 

Because its color personifies the orangutan. It’s got two distinctive features: its brain – which is 97% us and 3% better than us – and its color. Also, the background isn’t in black and white: that’s a burnt forest. That black against the orange makes a very clear point.

Burning Down The House - David Yarrow - Leonhard's Gallery
Burning Down The House – David Yarrow – Leonhard’s Gallery

When you’re young, you have certain expectations of what you want to achieve as a photographer. Have you beaten those expectations?

I started selling pictures on the corner of the streets for 10 pounds, and recently a photograph of mine sold for 120.000 pounds. That’s been 33 years of difference. But more than ever, I want to leave a legacy. I want to be recognized. You get asked an awful lot what your holy grail is within photography. For me, it’s respect for my peers.

To work with major brands like LVMH and get it right. When I work for myself, I only fail myself, but when you work with some of these major brands it adds a certain pressure. And I think that if you have two kids, and they’re teenagers, you want to get to a stage where they look up to what their father has done.

Are there still projects that you would like to do, but haven’t been able to do at this point?

We’ve just been to Antarctica, which cost us a lot of money as we funded our own boat and crew. Also, when you’re working with people like Cara [Delevingne] and Josie [Canseco], you don’t want to go down from there. It’s like this: you get what you pay for. You want to work with the very best because it makes a difference when it comes to the end result.

Our threshold of the mundane is very, very high. We’re constantly raising the bar.