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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 January, 2005, 09:36 GMT
'Touching' wildlife captured on film
By Tanya Gupta
BBC News Online, South East

Steve Bloom in Borneo ęstevebloom.com
Animals are shown as 'sentient beings' ęstevebloom.com
Ten years ago photographer Steve Bloom set out to visit all the world's continents and capture nature on film.

A decade later he has achieved his aim, lived alongside the world's most endangered species - and witnessed deliberate damage to their habitats.

Initially, he set out to show a "human" side to nature. Now he is warning that the planet faces "a race against time".

"I learned as much about animals as about what we, as human beings, are doing to the environment," he said.

I want to show the side of animals that says they are not all that different from us
Steve Bloom

"We went into Borneo to photograph orang-utans and a few weeks later there were forest fires caused by illegal logging and many orang-utans were killed.

"I visited an albatross colony in the Falklands and a week later, it was destroyed by a man-made fire."

The South African photographer began his career in Cape Town documenting the suffering caused by apartheid - work which led to him seeking political asylum in the UK.

Mr Bloom, who now lives in Ashford, Kent, with his wife and two teenage sons, returned to South Africa 13 years later when Nelson Mandela was released, this time to concentrate on the country's wildlife.

Steve Bloom, Kanha, India ęstevebloom.com
The photographer looks for the animal's spirit ęstevebloom.com

Now he shows the plight of endangered animals by showing their human side and their vulnerability - at one stage spending a week at the Wolong breeding centre for giant pandas in southern China.

He was given special permission to photograph the pandas by the Chinese authorities after a colleague in America helped to organise the visit.

He deliberately aimed for "a touching and moving" portrayal of the animals and their lives.

"I am not trying to show their hostile and aggressive side. I want to show the side of animals that says they are not all that different from us," he said.

"I'm not trying to be sentimental. Wildlife programmes do a huge job of educating people and I don't have a problem with showing the negative side.

It blurs the line between human beings and the rest of the animal world
Steve Bloom

"But there is so much negative imagery in the world that people become de-sensitised.

"You can show positive imagery and make people aware in the same way."

The giant panda pictures were taken at the Wolong centre because of the risk to the animals of harassing them in the wild.

But "capturing the spirit" of animals is best achieved when they are in their own habitat, Mr Bloom said.

In India, he spent three weeks searching for a wild tiger.

Steve Bloom in the Camargue, France ęstevebloom.com
Body language tells animals he is not a threat ęstevebloom.com

"When you look into a wild tiger's eye, you see something that you can't get in a tiger's eye in captivity," he said.

One of his favourite pictures is of a chimpanzee holding its hand out in the rain, watching the water bounce off its palm.

"He is looking inquisitively at the raindrops," the 51-year-old father-of-two said, whose latest book, Untamed, has been published in 10 languages.

"He makes me realise how chimps are probably contemplative.

"It blurs the line between human beings and the rest of the animal world. It shows we are all sentient beings."

"You see something of the spirit of the animal," he said.

Tracking reveals albatross habits
14 Jan 05 |  Science/Nature
China pandas face food shortage
16 Dec 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Monkey vocal ability investigated
20 Dec 04 |  Science/Nature
New sub-species of tiger found
08 Dec 04 |  Science/Nature

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