Los Angeles wildlife photographer Simon Needham captures stunning portraits of different species to raise awareness of endangered species and encourage conservation efforts.
Recently, he had the opportunity to visit the Glen Garriff Conservation in South Africa to take promotional photos of lions in their care. During this experience, Needham was able to get up close and personal with some rare white lions and capture their striking colors.
Although sometimes mistaken for the albino lion, the white lion occurs due to a recessive gene mutation in a leucism condition. For a cub to be born with white hair, both parents must possess this recessive gene. While white lions are native to South Africa, trophy hunting has made their existence rare in the wild.
They are mostly seen only in protected areas like the G.G., which provide a broad and safe place for them to live. Needham visited the spot to take free promotional photos of lions that G.G. could use to promote their cause.
Read on to learn more about Needham’s experience at the G.G. Conservation in an exclusive My Modern Met interview.
Can you tell us about your background in art?
“I initially went to college and studied graphic design, then founded my own company at the age of 18 (A.T.T.I.K.). I have grown with my partner James Sommerville to the point that we have an office worldwide and employs 350 people.
I am a creative director and focus on our company’s creative aspect. Including directing a lot of commercials to my clients when we do a couple of photoshoots is very familiar. Then we sold the company after 25 years, which allowed me to focus on the things I was passionate about.”
How did you become interested in wildlife photography specifically?
I want to travel and take more photos. So I realize that if I devote my time to humanitarian and conservation N.G.O.s, it will help me pay off and travel and capture genuinely unique situations and subjects.
Recently, you were able to visit G.G. Conservation to take pictures of their lions. Why did you choose to go to this place?
I know Suzy from G.G. and offered her my time to shoot content that she can then use to promote their significant career.
How is the experience?
I’ve visited that place a few times, and it gets better each time. I also feel more confident working with lions, and they can be very intimidating !!
Your pictures of white lions have received a lot of attention. What can you tell us about this rare mutation?
At G.G. Conservation, they have some white lions, but white lions are rare in the wild. Their color is the result of a genetic mutation in which two copies of the gene must be present for the white coat to appear in the animal. … The white lions are classified as urban African lions (Panthera leo).
How does it feel to see a white lion with your own eyes?
Being close to any lion is extraordinary; their power is palpable, but with the added unique white fur, it’s just a privilege !!
Can you tell us a little bit about what the G.G. Conservation is doing to help these lions?
G.G. takes care of about 77 lions who would not be with us otherwise. Their care for these animals comes from love, and they work very hard to make sure they are both happy and healthy.
But it’s a financial struggle for them in many ways, including maintenance and vet bills!
What do you think the key to wildlife photography is?
I’ve only been photographing wildlife for about three years, so I’m still learning, but I know you need a lot of patience!
What are some of the challenges?
Obviously, the logistics of finding wildlife is one. It often requires a lot of effort and time to be able to capture that particular photograph. The other is to find the right spot for the spot and background. Then you hope the animal does something interesting!
Do you have any projects in the future that you can tell us about?
I hope to return to Africa in April or May to return to some other protected areas (assuming C.O.V.I.D. issues are more under control).