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Africa's Big Five and Other Wildlife Filmmakers

A Centenary of Wildlife Filming in Kenya

Jean Hartley

Publication Year: 2010

Jean Hartley, born in Kenya, is acknowledged as being the first to legitimise ìfixingî for wildlife film crews. Over the last 25 years, she has worked on over a thousand films, the vast majority being about wildlife and nature. She features five of the great film makers who all started their careers in Kenya in the1950s, legends whom she is proud to call personal friends. Watching all of their films, and many more, she became fascinated by the history of film making in Kenya and determined to find out when it all started. In this insightful book, she traces the roots of wildlife film back a hundred years, drawing on accounts of the original film makers and the professional hunters who guided those early safaris. She tracks the changes from those grainy, speeded up, silent films through to the technologically perfect High Definition and 3D films that are being made today.

Published by: African Books Collective

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. v

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pp. vii-viii

Many people have been very kind in helping me research this book. Some have lent me books or given me links to the internet, most have trawled their memories, and many have dug out bits of their own family history including photographs, press cuttings, books, and even copies of films. Some have even spent time in libraries overseas, coming up with obscure articles...

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pp. ix-x

Jean Hartley’s study offers a unique and rather personal perspective on a group of people who have, over the past century, made wildlife and nature available to hundreds of millions of people across the world. It is the historical context that I find interesting and the subject of filmmaking is not one that most...

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pp. 1-4

Africa has been described as the most exciting continent on the planet. Elspeth Huxley, one of Kenya’s most prolific writers, wrote ‘Kenya must be the most photographed country in the world’. With a history of over a hundred years of such a variety of safari visitors arriving to experience and photograph...

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My Early Years [Image Plates]

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pp. 5-6

My earliest memories are dominated by animals, not people. Early photos show me with a cow, a horse, a dog, a cat; always at my happiest if accompanied by fur or feathers. Even in extreme youth, it seemed ‘I loved nature more’, despite being fairly gregarious. I recall my early days as being mostly in the open...

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The Beginning of Viewfinders, 1988

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pp. 7-17

I entered the business of wildlife filming by accident. Taking on the task of organising an international birdwatching marathon to raise funds for a children’s hospital, little did I realise that wildlife films would soon rule my life. Producer Adrian Warren of the BBC’s Natural History Unit heard about the event, and thought that it might make a nice half hour programme...

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The Start of Wildlife Filming, 1909

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pp. 18-63

Most people seem to be under the impression that the first wildlife footage in Kenya was filmed by Cherry Kearton for the Roosevelt expedition. However, it seems very likely that Carl Akeley was filming at around the same time. Carl Akeley was certainly familiar with stills cameras, having bought one in London in 1896. The first photographic studio had been established...

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Africa’s Big Five

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pp. 64-89

Des Bartlett was born in the Queensland rainforest on 2 April 1927. His father was a teacher, who had one of the largest collections of butterflies in Australia, and was interested in everything. Des grew up to be like him – fascinated by nature. After leaving school, he got a job in a bank which he...

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Other Special People

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pp. 90-98

I cannot possibly put this book to bed without including my friend Joan Root who was tragically murdered in January 2006. As everyone knows, Joan was married to Alan for more than twenty years, and he is the first to admit that he could not have achieved what he did without her. At her memorial service on the shores of Lake Naivasha, Alan described her as ‘the wind...

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The Television Era

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pp. 99-110

While television had been around for a number of years, the making of African wildlife films for television during the 1950s and 1960s was mostly restricted to people who lived here – Armand and Michaela Denis and my big five. David Attenborough’s Zoo Quest in the mid- 1950s had been very popular...


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pp. 111-117


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pp. 118-159


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pp. 160

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9789966151049
Print-ISBN-13: 9789966724496

Page Count: 174
Illustrations: B/W
Publication Year: 2010