Tuesday’s talk 4 May 2021 – “The Idle Rich Rambles on…” – Club photography with Leo Rich

For Leo lockdown came earlier than most, as after a long-haul flight he had been diagnosed with deep veined thrombosis and was told he could not fly long-haul again for 18 months. This started him thinking about his photography and the presentation was about his self-confessed ponderings on photography with several references to what camera club judges say.

Leo had visited France and took photos of comic frescos inspired by Gabriel Chevallier’s satirical novel Clochemerie, a fictional village where there is a local dispute about the construction of a pissoir, a public urinal (a theme Leo would come back to). Leo visited the place that inspired the novel, Vaux-en-Beaujolais, and where the mayor had commissioned public art in the town square depicting the characters of novel.  Leo also showed public art closer to home – Salisbury – with photographs of statues of knights that were commissioned to the mark the 800th anniversary of the ‘sealing’ of Magna Carta.

Leo and his wife had accompanied his daughter, a wildlife photographer, to Botswana and Namibia to photograph the wildlife. He showed photos of the animals and birds but moved on to his lavatory theme with shots of the washing and toilet facilities at the camp sites he stayed at which all had quirky signs. The quirkiness extended to the world’s only hippo and crocodile ‘cage dive’ facility.

Botswana didn’t ‘grab’ Leo but Namibia did. Leo showed his shots of elephants, buffaloes, antelopes, goshawks, lions, rhinos, zebra, leopards etc. These seemed to be a curtain raiser to his main event which were photographs of the Himba tribe. Leo visited a Himba orphanage, where three women did a welcoming dance and everyone in the village was happy to have their photographs taken. The Himba women plait their hair and cover it with a paste of butterfat and ochre pigment. Water is scarce and they use the paste to cleanse the skin which protects from the hot and dry climate, as well as from insect bites. Leo’s disarming demeanour meant that he got some very good portraits of the Himba villagers.

In the second half Leo concentrated on his main love – India. There were lots of excellent photographic portraits of the people of the sub-continent; pilgrims with the containers of holy water, children, women, brick workers, potters, holy men and more. He has returned to India on many occasions and always takes prints back to the people he has photographed.

He joked that though his name is Leo his favourite animal to photograph is the tiger followed by the leopard. Leo showed lots of very impressive shots of tigers, including cubs. He also had an interesting story about a leopard. A ranger at the Ranthambore National Park had cared for an orphaned leopard for two years but carefully raised it so that it could return to the wild rather than being a pet. The leopard was released into the wild and has thrived in the park. Though the leopard is wild, each time it hears the ranger’s jeep travelling through the park it comes out to greet the ranger by jumping on the bonnet of the jeep.

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Oxford Photographic Society