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Journeys in the Wild: The secret life of a cameraman, by Gavin Thurston

29 November 2019

Adam Ford appreciates a cameraman’s work and his account of it

THE wilderness has always had an important part to play in the Christian story: Jesus retreated into it to meditate; the earliest monks and nuns used it to clarify their lives; and poets have turned to it for solace (“Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet” — Hopkins). And now is the time for us to cherish and preserve it, before it is lost for ever. One of the most responsible things that we can do as human beings is to pay close attention to the planet we inhabit, the world given to us, and from which we have emerged through God’s creative power.

Gavin Thurston, a friend and colleague of Sir David Attenborough, is a cameraman who, through his work, introduces millions of us to corners of the world and remote places that we shall never visit. The contribution he makes to our awareness of the wilderness, through his brilliant filming, is invaluable. Journeys in the Wild is a well written, anecdotal account of his life as a cameraman: the hair-raising scrapes he gets into, the accidents he survives, and the wonders he beholds. Civil war and attempted kidnap, venomous snakes, and the fury of African bees do nothing to disturb his calm and dedication. A friendly crowd turned ugly on finding that he was English during the Iraq War.

photo courtesy of terry payneGavin Thurston in gorilla suit in the Radio Times in 2001

All over the world, Thurston is appalled and depressed by the destruction of nature by human beings: logging roads spread through the jungles of West Papua like a fast-growing cancer, making him sad. Yet his primary feeling is one of hope, as he films some of the extraordinary life forms that he finds out at sea, in primal forest, or in the heat of the desert.

My own favourite has to be the yeti crab, which survives in the sunless depths of the ocean, cultivating its own food supply of algae by waving its hairy claws in methane bubbling from deep-sea vents.

The Revd Adam Ford is a former Chaplain of St Paul’s School for Girls.

Journeys in the Wild: The secret life of a cameraman.
Gavin Thurston
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