INTERVIEW WITH AWARD-WINNING WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHER, JOHAN SIGGESSON
Thanking Andre Camilleri & The Malta Independent on Sunday (4th February 2024)
Renowned photographer Johan Siggesson, recipient of various prestigious awards, is set to showcase his captivating African wildlife photography at the esteemed Christine X Art Gallery in Sliema. The exhibition is scheduled to run from Thursday, 8th to 29th February 2024. In an exclusive interview, gallery owner Christine Xuereb Seidu (Christine X) delves into Siggesson’s experiences as a wildlife photographer, shedding light on his dedicated approach and the challenges he faces.
Christine X: When did you commence your dedicated photography safaris?
Johan Siggesson: I initiated my involvement in these safaris in 2012, initially as a participant under a guide photographer. Subsequently, I was approached to serve as a guide photographer for such expeditions, a role I continue to fulfill regularly. Occasionally, I undertake solo trips to exercise creative freedom, allowing me to focus on specific subjects, such as elephants.
Christine X: Reflecting on your extensive experience, what stands out as your most memorable safari trip, and why?
Johan Siggesson: My most memorable expedition was undertaken last year in Kenya, where I focused exclusively on photographing elephants. Unlike trips with clients, my solo endeavors are efficient, enabling me to capture the images I desire, enabling me to work on the images that I am envisioning rather than putting clients first. However, it’s not without its challenges. One of the showcased photographs in my upcoming exhibition was envisioned 12 years ago, and it took that long for everything to align perfectly – the right light, angle, and the animal positioning itself as desired.
Christine X: As a wildlife photographer, what hurdles do you encounter during safaris in Africa, aside from the logistical challenges of carrying equipment?
Johan Siggesson: Uncertainty looms during every safari, and one must be prepared for potential setbacks, such as vehicle breakdowns in challenging conditions. My focus is not on the thrill of adventure but on the work itself. Choosing accommodations strategically is vital, ensuring a conducive environment for both work and personal well-being. Access to necessities like electricity and, preferably, reliable Wi-Fi adds to the practical considerations. A competent local guide fluent in the language is indispensable, helping address any unforeseen issues during the expedition.
Christine X: Having earned several wildlife photography awards, could you provide insight into these accolades?
Johan Siggesson: I received my first award in 2014, the European Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Highly Commended in the Nature’s Studio category. Over the years, I’ve amassed around 20 awards, including a notable win in the Travel Photographer of the Year competition in 2019. Notably, the Malta International Photography Award stands out as the most financially substantial award, spanning a three- year period.
Christine X: What are your upcoming plans for photo safaris?
Johan Siggesson: In April, I will embark on a solo expedition to Tanzania to photograph lions for ten days. Subsequently, I anticipate guiding a trip to Kenya in October. While wildlife photography is inherently documentary, my aim is to capture images that transcend documentation and serve as pieces of art, hence my preference for black and white photography.
Christine X: Could you elaborate on the cost and logistics involved in your solo and group trips?
Johan Siggesson: When traveling alone, I invest around 8000 Euros in a trip. Group trips, which often involve cost-sharing, can range from 5000 to 12000 Euros for a week, depending on factors like accommodation. Luxurious accommodations naturally incur higher costs. The decision-making process for trip locations involves practical considerations, such as the availability of electricity, proximity to wildlife, and familiarity with the area.
This insightful interview with Johan Siggesson offers a glimpse into the meticulous and artistic approach he employs in capturing the beauty of African wildlife through his lens as well some insight into the huge costs and dedication needed. If you’d like to see these award-winning photographs , feel free to visit Christine X Art Gallery in Sliema from 8th to 29th February 2024.