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REIGN

 Limited Edition 

8 of 8

AVAILABLE EDITIONS

LARGE: 8 of 8 60"x 45"(152cm x 114cm)

STANDARD: 12 of 12 45"x 33"(114cm x 84cm)

LEWA, KENYA 2015

I stalked this young male named "Esau" for two days with a lion tracker on Lewa Conservancy. Saibala and I shadowed him during his mating period. He spent his entire time following his lover around religiously, mating with her every 10-15 minutes for a total of two weeks. This image was captured in a rare moment when the terrain worked in my favour, and Esau lay down on a small hill only a few metres from my Land Rover. He took a strategic position on higher ground to keep a watchful eye on the object of his affections. Because of the elevation of the ground he was eye-level to my lens, and was looking straight towards me. This is a photographic angle rarely experienced with wild lions, as they can only be observed from the safety of vehicles, which are usually looking down on them. 

As I was trying to compose my beating heart and overcome the blood-chilling fear piercing my chest like the 3-inch claws that adorned this handsome chap's baseball glove-sized paws, I slowly rolled down my window, and stuck my lens out. I was only on a 200mm focal length, and his extraordinary face filled up my frame completely. My senses were heightened. I focused my lens, and like the tips of a thousand needles, every piece of hair on his face became crystal clear. The rustle of the dry blades of grass in the soft wind amplified to a deafening volume. My shutter went off like a cannon, and every morsel of Esau's being zoned in on me.

 

When a wild lion locks eyes with you, something ancient and primal is stirred deep within, and even the air between the two of you seems to disappear. Reality is simplified: he is a predator, and you are prey. One unexpected leap from him in this instant and I would have little chance to yell out, much less roll my window back up. My only saving grace was his lover Suzy resting in the shade of a thorny bush, directly in Esau's line of sight. Luckily for me, the funny human making strange clicking noises inside a shiny rolling metal box was not his first priority.

 

The exhilaration of this moment will remain etched in my memory for the rest of my life. 

My lion description does not end there, however. I would be remiss if I did not mention that for the first time in history, this ancient symbol of ultimate power and strength is eroding. We are the generation who grew up watching The Lion King, and we are now also the ones who are witnessing the Simbas of the world disappear out of existence. There used to be over a million of these mythical animals; today, less than 20,000 remain. In other words, their irreversible extinction is 98% complete.  

 

The "Dreams of Africa" collection was originally intended to be a pure and simple celebration of the beauty of wildlife. However, I realized during the creation process that not only is it impossible for me to separate the appreciation of these animals from communicating their plight, it would be ethically wrong. We should not speak in awe of the regal beauty of these cats, and not acknowledge the wrongful persecution and vilification they face daily which is driving them out of existenceTo tell people about their wondrously romantic breeding cycles which can last up to two weeks and consist of as many as 50 mating sessions in a single day, and not mention that today more lions live in captivity in the United States alone than are roaming wild in Kenya, would do a disservice to the remaining animals and mask the palpable danger they face as a species. Habitat destruction, human wildlife conflict and trophy hunting are all contributing to the disappearance of the most iconic predator humanity has ever known. 

 

The very reason I started this work was to become a voice for the voiceless, and use the external beauty of animals to inspire people into action. If my images could spark love in the hearts of people my goal would be accomplished, because people can't turn their backs on something they truly love. 
 

If you are as mesmerized by the beauty of these animals as me, please consider the peril they are in and support an organization like The Perfect World Foundation or ForRangers.

Long Live The King.

 

-Martin Buzora


 

 

          

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