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Jan 24 2018

Richard Kemp

On the passing of wildlife film-maker Richard Kemp, specialist in documenting elusive wild carnivores.

In November the wildlife filming community lost another exceptional wildlife cameraman. Richard Kemp and wife Julia made films for Survival Anglia in Kenya, Sudan, Spain, India, Russia, The USA, Canada and Spitzbergen. After working for Survival, Richard worked for Tigress, National Geographic and The RSPB.

To enable spectacular aerial photography Richard was a pilot of light aircraft and latterly a drone pilot too but his special skill was filming elusive wildlife in remote and harsh environments. Wild Siberian tigers, lynx, genets, wolves and bears were all subjects Richard got intimately close to. There can't be many people who have filmed elusive wolves in the wilds of Spain, Russia, Canada, Alaska and the US mainland, or a wild Siberian tiger. Richard stayed in that hide for a week before the tiger showed up. A key to his success was this ability to make himself comfortable in a small hide for many days on end, even in the extreme cold. As his field assistant I remember leaving him in an igloo hide 30m from a polar bear den in Svalbard for 3 days to capture the moment a mother bear emerged from the snow with her new cubs. He had a radio to talk to me and trip flare to keep himself safe at temperatures of 20 below. Had the bear stayed in that den for another week I'm sure Richard would have been happy to hang on in his icy hole and wait. On the same trip he filmed another bear breaking through the ice to catch a ringed seal.

At the start of his career Richard worked as an editor in London before joining legendary film-maker Alan Root as his assistant in Kenya. He died following a stroke just a few months after Alan. Richard and Julia made their first film Hell's Gate for Survival In 1974. In 1984 Richard won The Wildlife Photographer of The Year Award for an underwater photo of a goosander and later Survival's Hunters On Ice, featuring much of Richard's work, picked up a Wildscreen Panda for the behaviour he captured of polar bears. There were other awards around the world over the years. Richard and Julia's films about the Sudanese Dinka Tribe, the migration of White-eared Kob and Wolf: The Spanish Outlaw were very popular for Survival Anglia, as were their films about the Spanish lynx and the little known genet.

Persistence rather than patience, Richard insisted, is the greatest attribute of the wildlife film-maker. His oft repeated mantra was: "instead of standing around talking about it, let's get on and actually do it". He loved towers, hides, all manner of vehicles and any other contraption that could be used to deliver a new angle on wildlife.

Richard will be missed most of all by his widow Julia, his children Malcolm and Emma and their children, as well as the Survival Anglia fraternity.

Graham Hatherley, Chairman, IAWF