Nearing the end of his three-week adventure in Kenya and Tanzania, Canadian photographer Andrew MacNaughtan had captured a jumping Maasai warrior, beaming school children, migrating wildebeest, peek-a-boo giraffe, affectionate zebras, picture-perfect clouds, a cheetah with her cub, surreal trees, a herd of gazelle — and four of “The Big Five” of Africa: the lion, elephant, buffalo and rhino. Missing was the elusive leopard.
In two more days, he would be on a flight back home to Toronto. As powerful and inspirational as the trip had been, Andrew could not leave short one Big. “He was driving our guide crazy,” laughs World Vision’s Cathy Cutz, one of his traveling companions alongside photography assistant Todd Fraser.
Knowing the leopard, while comfortable in a range of habitats, usually perches high in a tree to observe any potential prey or enemies, their guide, Wilfred, pulled the truck over 100 metres from two trees. Looking through his binoculars, he told Andrew to also look closely. “I couldn’t see anything but two trees,” says Andrew. “He said, ‘Look at the tree on the right.’” Todd handed him his longest lens possible. Suddenly, in one of the trees, a spotted tail dropped down from a branch.
Without hesitation, Wilfred drove off-road right up to the tree just three metres away. He gave Andrew 30 seconds. “I was so close I even saw a kill behind him on another branch,” Andrew says. The magnificent cat awoke, looked straight at him with those penetrating eyes. Click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click. Eight shots. The best is included in Grace: Africa In Photographs.
The 80-page hard cover book — intended to result in 500 new child sponsors for World Vision — is far outside Andrew’s usual photographic subjects. His specialty for the past 30 years is another kind of wild life: musicians.
Andrew has shot some of the world’s biggest bands and singers, among them Michael Bublé, Celine Dion, Nickelback, Avril Lavigne, Simple Plan, and his primary client since 1989, the legendary Canadian rock trio Rush. In fact, its singer-bassist, Geddy Lee, who has gone to Africa twice, was an enormous help to Andrew in planning his trip and inspired him with the personal photos he had taken.
Geddy not only suggested Kenya and Tanzania as destinations, but the book’s foreword heading, Grace Notes.
“The word ‘grace’ came very quickly to me,” Andrew explains. “I was inspired primarily by the cover shot of Maasai warrior Shadrack. He asked me if I wanted him to dance. A traditional dance includes a jump — the higher you jump, the more women you get — and he did it with such grace.
“Then, I thought, ‘How does that tie in with animals?’ I immediately realized elephants have such grace. They’re so huge, so powerful, and can be so dangerous, but they move in such a graceful manner. Then I thought, ‘Well, what about the children?’ I looked at some of these photos and these kids have some of the biggest smiles on their faces. They are overcoming challenges in their lives and they have such dignity and grace.”
And so Grace: Africa In Photographs spoke as much in those four words as Andrew has captured with none — only in pictures.
To tie in his 30-year passion, musicians such as Geddy Lee, Michael Bublé, Annie Lennox, Bryan Adams, Fefe Dobson, Daniel Lanois, Jann Arden, Tom Cochrane, Lights, Celine Dion, Jully Black, Hedley’s Jacob Hoggard and Barenaked Ladies’ Ed Robertson have in their words each written a poetic caption or inspirational comment based on their impression of one of the black & white photographs.
“My photography of musicians is commercial art; this is the first time I’ve done a project that is strictly fine art and intensely personal, something artistic, powerful and dramatic,” says Andrew. “I did an architecture series exhibit in 1995 when I was on tour with Rush. I am proud of it, but I was shooting someone else’s art, the architecture; I’ve never done a project that’s strictly for me, that would challenge me.”
There’s no way to prepare for such a photographic mission, which required daily road-trips upwards of 200 kilometres in order to track down animals or travel to a village. Andrew can apply his knowledge of light, texture and composition to almost any subject: school children, World Vision communities, Maasai warriors, landscapes, but he cannot control wildlife.
He couldn’t count on seeing any of The Big Five (so named by game hunters because of the difficulty and danger involved in tracking them down), let alone encountering giraffes, hippos, zebras, gazelles and wildebeest. But interestingly, when he did, this master of portraiture still took the same approach he does when working with musicians.
“This animal,” he says, referring to the shot of the leopard, “in some ways, it is a portrait. He’s posed and looking at me. I didn’t have control over the elephant or the light,” he adds, “but I still took a portraiture approach with it.” Same with the rhino, for which they waited for more than an hour in the Ngorongoro Crater to see. “We had to search and be patient,” Andrew says.
But much more than becoming a photographic game hunter himself, Grace: Africa In Photographs represents the fantastic, life-changing work World Vision does in more than 90 countries, providing help to millions of people each year. Andrew’s first project with World Vision was his ArtGivesHopeexhibit in 2006, featuring more than 60 images of his most striking portraits of Canadian musicians. It raised an impressive $55,000 to build houses for families in Africa that are affected by HIV/AIDS.
In 2009, Andrew found himself brainstorming with Cathy on an art book that would capture the beauty of Africa. They planned the expedition in two months, knowing only that over the course of three weeks in November they would visit with World Vision communities past and present. “We really saw the worst of the worst without World Vision onboard and then communities that have had help. I saw the results,” says Andrew.
“Many people represented in the book are beneficiaries of the community development programs,” adds Cathy. “We went to visit schools, but also water programs, HIV/AIDS projects, agricultural projects. We saw most of the work that World Vision does and we saw a new brand new community where World Vision just started working. So we saw the before, middle and after.”
In one Maasai community, Andrew met David, an HIV-positive man whose wife abandoned him seven years prior, taking his kids. Then frail and bedridden with no medication, the former banker was given antiviral drugs through World Vision and got his life back. He now does pastoral work, taking care of animals on a plot of land his father bequeathed. “He’s become a celebrity in his community because he’s a spokesman for HIV/AIDS and HIV prevention,” says Andrew.
In keeping with World Vision’s pay-it-forward approach, David also trained to become a World Vision community care worker. He has about 10 clients and travels regularly by bicycle to check on them. “He’s their main social worker per se, but he’s a volunteer for World Vision,” Cathy explains.
As the trio’s trip neared the end, Andrew still hadn’t sponsored a child, a personal goal while there. Unlike hundreds of thousands of World Vision sponsors in Canada, he had this unique opportunity to actually meet the child he would help. “Spending hours and hours traveling, always in the back in my mind I was hoping I could find a child I could sponsor, but meeting him or her in person hadn’t happened yet,” says Andrew.
On one of their last days there, in a start-up community in Tanzania — too early for many of the children to have sponsors — Andrew was photographing children who had ingeniously put together their own focus group to share ideas about how to participate in their community.
“I said, ‘Come over here. Let me get some pictures,’” recounts Andrew. “Everyone was just deadpan for me, but this seven-year-old boy, with this great big smile, he was amazing. His name is Baraka. I started to talk to him through a translator. His shirt was ripped and everyone else’s was fine so I asked the World Vision community worker if she would go out and buy him a school uniform, a new shirt, and a sweater for the winter.
“So Baraka became my sponsored child,” says Andrew. “It felt great. I have a picture of the two of us on my iPhone. He couldn’t wait to go home to tell his parents that he has a new Canadian friend.”
Someone else had a new Canadian friend too. It is arguably the most remarkable story of Andrew’s whole trip and epitomizes not only the difference World Vision makes in a person’s life, but how one gesture, one caring moment, can alter the course of someone’s life.
It begins in a remote Maasai village in southern Kenya, some time in the late 1980s or early 1990s (years are difficult to determine, as villagers rarely kept track). A young child was sponsored through World Vision by an Australian family (she prefers to remain anonymous). Years later, she worked at World Vision Kenya and helped set up women’s business groups, the profits from which were used to send girls to school. She herself graduated high school at the top of her class and attended college in Nairobi. She is now a social work student in Canada, the first girl from her village to ever go to university overseas. But as inspiring as her accomplishments may be, this is not her story.
Upon hearing of Cathy and Andrew’s trip, this young woman arranged for Andrew, Cathy and Todd to meet her family in their village. Her mother prepared a meal for them, but unfortunately Andrew wasn’t feeling well that day and stayed outside where her siblings were playing. That’s when her younger brother asked Andrew to take his picture.
“I put him over by a tree where there’s shade and better lighting. He’s standing there and I’m shooting and he said, ‘What do you want me to do?’ I said, ‘Anything.’ ‘Do you want me to dance?’ he asked. Seems like everyone wants to dance for me,” Andrews laughs. “So I said, ‘Sure.’ He then asked, ‘Can I take your picture?’ I showed him how to hold the camera and he started clicking away. We really connected. It was one of those great moments.”
But the story doesn’t end there.
Days after Andrew left Kenya, his sister learned that her brother had borrowed the local pastor’s point-and-shoot camera and starting photographing the local community. “She wrote to Cathy saying that he was so inspired by what I had shown him,” relays Andrew. “She explained that he had started school later than most because he was needed at home to help his father with their livestock. So by the time he did attend school, he just didn’t see the advantage of going, even though most kids are excited to be there and the opportunity for education. He simply hadn’t yet discovered something he was passionate about.
“So I heard this story and Cathy and I said, ‘Well, let’s get him a camera,’ Andrews continues. “So we raised some money and bought him a camera. His sister went back to her community for a visit and gave him the camera. She told us that he has since been taking pictures of all the different families and their animals in his community. There’s a nearby village that has a printer and he walks a good hour each way to get the prints made. With the profits he makes, he has bought seven goats and now he’s saving up his money to go to college in Nairobi for photography.”
Andrew has toured with some of the world’s top musicians, but his time in Kenya and Tanzania was the most incredible adventure of them all. He captured The Big Five, yes, but more importantly, he captured the heart and imagination of a young man in an hour-long encounter that gave much more back to Andrew.
“The purpose of this book is art though photography,” says Andrew, “and it’s photography that inspired this kid to become a photographer and he’s using photography to change his life. The trip, these photographs, this book is a symbol of all that is possible in a short time if you are willing to reach out. You never know what even a small gesture can do, as I happily found out.
“I hope people are inspired by my photographs to sponsor a child, but also to make that trip to Africa and see for themselves the magnificent beauty of the continent and meet the wonderful people. It will change their life, as it did mine.”
Music video director and photographer Andrew MacNaughtan is known for his keen eye and creative art direction, MacNaughtan brings a unique vision to each project, seen in the direction of over 70 music videos, the album art photography of over 150 releases and the press & publicity material for several recording artists and celebrities.
MacNaughtan has photographed such premier artists as Avril Lavigne, Celine Dion, the Barenaked Ladies, Alanis Morissette, 3 Doors Down, Michael Bublé and Nickelback. His eclectic style adapts to a wide range of subjects, from the progressive – cutting-edge rock band Simple Plan – to the sophisticated – the official portrait of Her Excellency, Madam Clarkson, the Governor-General of Canada. MacNaughtan has been the principal photographer for rock icons Rush since 1989, photographing all their tours, promotional materials and album art.
As well, Andrew has expanded his cliental to TV productions that include So You Think You Can Dance Canada, Top Chef Canada, ETalk and Battle of the Blades bringing to each project a fresh approach to those shows marketing and publicity. He currently just finished co-directing the new opener for the TV show Fashion Television which is seen around the globe.
In March of 2006 MacNaughtan raised $55,000 for families in Africa living with HIV/AIDS with his Art Gives Hope art exhibit fundraiser in conjunction with World Vision Canada, featuring over 60 images of his most striking work. He received national media attention with his project that include coverage by CTV National News, ETalk, Entertainment Tonight Canada, The Toronto Star, Mix99 Radio, Chum FM, Breakfast Television, CP24, and Global National News where he was named by news anchor Kevin Newman as “Hero of the Week”.
MacNaughtan has won numerous awards over his 25 year career, including four Juno Awards, for Our Lady Peace, Tom Cochrane, Rush and Jann Arden, two East Coast Music Awards and a MMVA for his work with Great Big Sea.