Interview. Patrick Kientz, wildlife photography.
"You can't be passionate about animals and not want to preserve their natural habitats."
When Patrick, an awarded animal photographer came back to France from Kenya last month -his second home- and sent me this photo of a young baboon playing with a plastic bottle, I wondered if he ran into theses scenes often on his many travels around our planet's most beautiful landscapes.
Patrick, AKA the White Masai, also recently helped birth an exiting project in the heart of the Masai Mara he is very exited to share with us in this interview.
Hi Patrick, when did you start doing animal photography?
I have been passionate about photography since my childhood and I have been practicing wildlife photography seriously since 2005. My first safari dedicated to this practice was in Kenya and it changed my life. I have since returned every year, sometimes even several times a year, to discover the incredible wildlife of East Africa.
During my trips, I met an exceptional Masai guide, Jackson Naurori that set up his own safari company in the Masai Mara two years ago, Tembo by Jackson, respectful of the Masai Mara wildlife and aiming to spread the very rich Masai culture and identity.
It is a great pride for me to accompany the first and unique Masai to own his own bush camp, almost 60 years after Kenya's independence (1963).
15 years of friendship. Jackson and Patrick in the Masai Mara.
Where does your passion comes from?
That's a big question! I inherited the love of photography from my father, but he wasn't specifically interested in animals. In fact, I photographed people before devoting myself exclusively to photographing wild animals in their natural environment.
The way I see it, you can't practice wildlife photography without loving animals, and consequently developing a real sensitivity to their protection and the protection of their environment.
Have you often been confronted with plastic in nature during your travels?
Unfortunately, plastic is everywhere! It can even be difficult to take pictures without being obliged to erase some waste, bags or bottles during the photo editing process.
One of my worst plastic memories goes back to 2009 in the Henri Pittier National Park, pride of Venezuela. Sumptuous landscapes, magnificent trees... unfortunately I had no choice but to frame above the ground to avoid immortalizing thousands of plastic bags and bottles, old mattresses and other garbage!
A few years ago you started exhibiting your photographs in primary schools, what impact do you want them to have on our new generation?
When I exhibit my photographs, I always give an important place to the protection of nature, and to communicating my love for animals.
One of my favorite subjects is the protection of the Great Apes. I tell the children the story of my friend Tom the orangutang, explaining the misdeeds of deforestation and the irrational cultivation of palm oil - that happens to be an ingredient of a very well know chocolate and hazelnut spread they may have at home.
Children understand my story and many agree to change their habits. As a result of that, at each inauguration, the mayor of my town announces that she is very proud to be the mayor of the French town that consumes the least Nutella. There are no small victories!
Tell us a little bit more about your second home in the Masai Mara, a project you helped birth.
The camp of Tembo by Jackson, where I spend a large part of my life now, is a luxurious bush camp located in the heart of the Masai Mara reserve and aims to offer to unconditional nature lovers the splendors of Kenya's wildlife, allowing them to get as close as possible to the animals without ever disturbing them.
Tembo by Jackson is a responsible and very respectful operator who has excellent relations with the National Park administration and its rangers responsible for ensuring the protection of the animals and visitors.
The guides of Tembo by Jackson are all Masai, they live in an environment they have always lived in, and they love their work. Passionate about their territory and the wildlife that surrounds them, they are also very proud to work in the only 100% Kenyan and Masai company in the Masai Mara (which has more than 200 tourist structures, all at least partially owned by foreign investors)!
Sustainability and solidarity
Tembo by Jackson respects waste sorting standards and has taken the initiative to ban plastic bottles from its bush camp, providing all its clients with reusable aluminum water bottles.
With the future of the Masai community in mind, Patrick and Jackson also created the Masai Mara Solidarity association to finance the schooling of Masai children. Earlier this year 11 children were benefiting from it but unfortunately due to school closures since march 2020 the programme is on stand by. The idea behind the Masai Mara Solidarity programme was to give the children access not only to general education but to their own culture through free safaris and conferences.
This may seem paradoxical, but Masai children often only know about lions and elephants through incidents they heard of and it is important for their future to raise their interest to protect their wildlife. TBC.
We hope you enjoyed the ride!
Patrick Kientz photography books
All photos in this post are property of Patrick Kientz.