The Babbler 45

Page 41

The Babbler 45 (Jan - Mar) 2013

PERSONALITY

Joel Lawrence Holzman: wildlife photographer and videographer BACKGROUND Joel spent three months with the People Resources and Conservation Foundation’s Vietnam program during 2011 – 2012.

JOEL’S OWN STORY Born - April 9, 1947; Brooklyn, New York

I developed my photographic skills at an He was keen to learn first-hand about PRCF’s early age and found myself photographing wildlife conservation work. In return, Joel everything around me: family, friends, pets, offered to produce photographs and a video and nature in general. I also started using documentary on the organization’s efforts to 8mm, as well as 16mm, film cameras to safeguard the endangered François’ langur, record events of my time, including massive one of PRCF Vietnam’s flagship species. peace demonstrations in the states [United States] during the Vietnamese War era. Field staff were impressed by Joel’s fitness, enthusiasm, professionalism – and I had a talent for photographing women, unswerving determination – to observe and turned it into a full-time profession and document this elusive langur species in after moving to California from New York in the mid 1970’s. I finally settled in Los Angeles in 1979, where for thirteen years I did a combination of mostly glamour and some fashion photography, as well as shooting Hollywood celebrities for national publications.

the rugged limestone karst forest areas of northern Vietnam.

However in 1993 I took a very different path. I left Los Angeles for Miami, Florida, and returned to school at the University of Miami to earn my bachelor’s degree in Marine Science. After graduating in 1996 I left for Gabon, Africa in 1997 for 30 months to work with the United States Peace Corps, promoting aquaculture to local farmers. While doing this I found an unused Peace Corps video camera and began shooting videos of the varied Peace Corps activities throughout Gabon, as well as local tribal cultural events.

When I left the Peace Corps at the end of 1999 I had accumulated over 10 hours of edited videos from my experiences there. This inspired me to pursue a master’s degree in visual and physical anthropology at San Francisco State University in 2000. As part of this course, I researched western lowland gorillas at the San Francisco Zoo. My final thesis project involved photographing this species in their natural habitat – back in Gabon – in 2002.

Cat Ba langur, an isolated langur species found only on Cat Ba Island, Vietnam.

Rick was also my connection with the western lowland gorillas of Gabon. He had been working with the NGO Projet Protection des Gorilles, a sanctuary for these gorillas in southeastern Gabon, near the Congolese border. Through Rick and this NGO, I was able to gain permission to spend a month with the gorillas: researching, photographing and videoing the natural Doing documentaries was always my choice activities of a group of 17 individuals ranging of work, and promoting nature conservation in age from 11 months to 7 years old. through my film experiences made my job even more rewarding. It was amazing to have such good access to the group, allowing me to observe the Being a Hollywood photographer may gorillas’ everyday interactions with each seem like a dream job. But promoting the other and with the Gabonese keepers who conservation cause and informing the public were there to help protect them. I was able – and helping to save animal species that to closely observe how these gorillas survive are in danger of extinction – are much more in their natural habitat – the isolated jungle important to me. and savannah by the quick-flowing Mpassa River. GORILLA DOCUMENTARY Spending over two years working in a My worst experiences were in dealing with foreign country gives you many personal the harsh conditions we all lived in with insights and special connections that you these gorillas. We had to contend with all can only obtain by being there. When I left kinds of biting insects, as well as the heat the Peace Corps I managed to keep up my and humidity – even though I shot in the close friendships with some of the other dry, cooler summer season. volunteers I’d met there. One of my closest friends was Rick Passaro, a zoologist and There is a short segment in my film where fellow aquaculture volunteer. This is the I’m talking to the camera, explaining what same Rick Passaro who now heads the Cat I was observing that day. You can see the Ba Langur Conservation Project. He is doing exhaustion in my face from all the hours outstanding work to save the endangered I had to spend in the field to shoot my 41


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