Seeing through the lens of Rewilding

By Louise Kear

Louise Kear, a Devon-based photographer, shares her passion for photographing nature, whilst visiting our wild land as she documents its rewilding with her camera lens.

I am a photographer living in Devon. Although I photograph a wide range of subjects, I am especially passionate about photographing wildlife and the natural world. Alongside my more commercial photography I am also involved with a number of local re- wilding projects. Enthused by the potential for ecological recovery that re-wilding offers, I have been photographing land being returned to nature close to where I live. As part of this interest in rewilding, I have recently started to visit Embercombe with my camera to document the natural restoration that is taking place here.

I see more through my camera. Photography has taught me to really look at the world around. Sometimes when I am out watching wildlife with my camera at hand, I may not always get the image that I am after but I always see something amazing and learn more about our natural world. Perhaps some might find it deeply frustrating that behind every photo I share there are hours and hours just spent watching, but this time outdoors is never wasted. I feel a great sense of serenity, silence and connection when I spend time in nature. It is deeply healing and personally restorative. Photographing the natural world has changed my relationship with our surrounding environment and my understanding of my place in it.

Since sharing my images of local wildlife I have been surprised at how little seen our natural environment is. English Heritage has estimated some 97% of UK wild meadows have been lost over the past century to human activity. This has had a devastating impact on the biodiversity these spaces support. As part of the growing rewilding movement Embercombe is teaming up with other local land owners in Devon to allow their land to revert to a more wild and natural state. One early July morning I visited with with my camera to photograph the meadows at Embercombe whilst they were still wet with dew and watch the butterflies wake up and dry out in the early morning sun. Our ideas of meadows are now heavily curated by the recent popularity for sowing wildflowers seeds, especially in urban areas. These plant schemes have their role within current efforts to promote a greater reconnection between people and a more natural landscape. But today I found colour, texture and biodiversity of a more wild kind. Less orchestrated by human hand. A different world is possible.

Even things that carry the prefix ‘common’ are often overlooked by many people who can then be astonished at how beautiful and exotic something can be. If one of my images can make someone look again, I think I might have achieved something really worthwhile. I want to help people reconnect with nature.

I want to give a voice to a world that is otherwise hidden in the undergrowth that edges our human world and the liminal hours of dawn and dusk.

Photographing the natural world has intensified my own understanding of the current environmental crises. Learning to see through my camera I have observed the decline and destruction caused by human activity. It does feel as if we are on the precipice of an environmental catastrophe and sometimes I wonder if I am photographing things for the last time. Against these feelings of despair, the rewilding movement gives me hope that a different way of living is possible and we still have options to pull back from the brink. Maybe, by showing the beauty of what we are about to lose, is the best way I can help change the narrative.

Photography by Louise Kear