Behind every photograph in the luxurious photo collection Light and Dust, Images and Stories from the Wild of East Africa is the prodigious passion of Italian photographer Federico Veronesi. His love for the Masai Mara drove Veronesi to his vocations as a wildlife guide, environmental activist and photographer -- and also to long mornings hiding in the backseat of his car watching antelopes, exhausting days of searching and dark nights of camping, “feeling like the only human on earth.”
His photography searches for the still moments of “now” that overshadow Veronesi’s deep concerns for the area’s conservation. Lions, wildebeests, cheetahs and elephants all receive full coverage as Veronesi’s portfolio alternates black-and-white images with color, the interplay keeping things fresh. Weather plays a role in many compositions -- a coalition of cheetahs sits on a blue-gray savannah beneath a lightning storm, a pod of hippos is silhouetted by the sunset -- as Veronesi narrates each “privileged” moment, bringing readers beyond the images and into his experience.
In addition to exposing places safari-goers are likely to visit (the Talek River, Ngorongoro Crater, the Serengeti and Mount Kilimanjaro) Veronesi introduces animals that visitors might meet while on safari (like Notch the lion, Shingo the cheetah and Olive the leopard). He shares insights into the histories, social lives and secret dramas of his subjects, culled from his experience photographing in the Mara. A unique section of Veronesi’s collection is a series of photographs of caracals. He discovered the extremely rare and elusive cat by accident and then trailed a female caracal for three years.
These images are not only beautiful -- and set the collection apart from others like it -- but are a testament to the amount of time Veronesi has spent on the savannah. “Today more than ever,” Veronesi writes, “animals in Africa are persecuted by greedy men in search for ivory, rhino horn, lions’ bones, bush-meat, skins, trophies to hang on the wall, and souvenir pictures.” He asks that his readers feel the immediacy of that threat and its consequences in his work, which is personal and heartfelt but, above all, passionate.