WARNING: This is NOT a ‘How-to-be-a-documentary-cameraman’ book. Rather, this is a non-fiction book where I take the reader on different journeys throughout the world as I practiced my craft of 35 years – filming and making documentaries. The stories I chose to tell are filled with the most diverse group of characters in some of the remotest parts of the planet. Most of these assignments were extreme, involving risk and they could have been fatal but fortunately, I hope you’ll agree, I survived to write about these adventures for all to share and enjoy. Every chapter is one of discovery, of new friends, of strange occurrences or odd-ball characters – from Greenland to Mt. Everest, the Congo, Peru and Brazil, Sumba in Indonesia, war-ravaged Afghanistan and the Middle East conundrum of Israel and Palestine. My job as a cinematographer was to capture the visual elements required to tell the story. There were inherent challenges to address and overcome, some hard and some, impossible. I tried to keep the technical aspects to a minimum but in some instances those technical details were intrinsic to the story. I made some wonderful friends and resourceful enemies. In many instances the locales were extremely remote and therefore off any tourist grid. The world of documentary filming allows a few of us to experience that.
The trip down the coast of East Greenland became death-defying although we were initially lulled into a guise of beauty and tranquility; that was until a hurricane capsized our support yacht leaving us adrift and rudderless at the mercy of a violent Mother Nature. Death-defying could also be applied to attempting to film gorillas in the N’Doki rainforest of the Congo. Accompanied by ten Bembemgele pygmies and traipsing through one of the most remote locations on the planet, one faced an almost instantaneously fatal snake bite, a flash flood or a murderous charge by a camera-shy male gorilla. I was well aware of the potential dangers but the thrill and allure of the assignments was too great. They all drew me like a magnet. It was much the same in Afghanistan except a misstep could trigger off an IED (improvised explosive device). As for the chapter on Mt. Everest, I was walking in the footsteps of my great friend Blair Griffiths who died in the Khumbu Ice Fields on the ‘82 Canadian Expedition, crushed by an avalanche of ice blocks the size of school buses. There’s a chapter on the Wodaabe Nomads of northern Niger, our eager hosts, that’s as exotic and sexual as tribal society can get.
So why did I continue on these travels, some narrowly skirting disaster? The answer is simple; it’s an all-consuming business that allows me to push myself to the absolute limit. It provides an outlet for my creative side and intrinsically I’m a storyteller. I share their overwhelming curiousity for the planet and its inhabitants. Like them I have a need to tell those stories. Serendipity has carried me down this path. I never planned it this way but it’s been, I hope you agree, a most intriguing life and one to share.