Hi Keith! Tell us about yourself in two sentences - who are you?
Home is London, but I like to wander some of the wilder corners of our world and try to understand and express what I see. I often find it hard to edit my images, because each one also represents the memory of a moment, person or place. I struggle to pick favourites and discard others. We live on a wonderful planet and I never try to get too tricksy with lighting or effects - there are enough fantastic sights out there in the real world, and I’m happy to try to capture them as they really are. And then I aim to use the images to raise awareness of issues and some money for organisations who do good work - at least 50% of money from each sale goes to charity, and it’s 100% for all my images from a recent visit to earthquake-hit parts of Nepal.
QWhat's the weirdest situation you've found yourself in while taking a photograph?
AWeird situations are in some ways the ones I try to get myself into. A couple of weeks ago I found myself digging a water pipeline through the Nepalese jungle, along with Tamang villagers and a few armed police about to deploy to South Sudan. That was fairly random. Others have often involved animals (close encounters with mountain gorillas, white rhinos, and a wild cheetah determined to lick the sweat from my forearm). Or I remember one time I was up to my waist in the Indian Ocean as tens of thousands of people around me ran into the waters, at a festival in honour of Lord Murugan. Dressed in local clothing at a Shia shrine in Kabul, hoping my beard would convince. And there was an awkward moment slightly stuck up a cliff in the Libyan Sahara - a little overambitious, as I looked for undiscovered rock art to photograph. Lots of slightly bizarre situations, and hopefully lots more to come in the future.
QWhat do you shoot on? What's your favourite set up?
ANothing fancy - the main priority with kit is that it’s light and can go wherever I go. So the biggest lens I’ll take is 200mm, and if that’s not enough then so be it. That plus a fast prime for indoors. Nikon, relatively cheap and robust, the kind of thing that can bump around over a shoulder, on a packed local bus, or up a mountain. If it’s too heavy or precious then I won’t get to the places I want to reach. My favourite set up, by far, is to have a clean sensor.
QWhat's your number one tip for an aspiring photographer?
AThere are a few obvious things - carry a camera, doesn’t really matter what kind. Get close, rise early, stay out late. Always look around the next corner or over the horizon. Invest time and effort in a place or a person, and have empathy for your subject. But I’d also say there are times when there’s something more important than the shot. Sorry if that’s a slightly unhelpful tip. But occasionally it’s better to put the camera away - to show respect for a situation, to fully appreciate it without worrying about your shots, and to keep yourself safe. For example, when being greeted by the Dalai Lama on a visit to post-cloudburst Ladakh, worrying about photos was simply the wrong thing to do. Or when on foot, alone, up close with a startled white rhino, it’s better to leave the camera alone and focus on the present. Yes, get a couple of quick shots - but make sure you experience the moment as well. Because before you’re a photographer, you’re a person, and some moments may never happen again.