Culture

Wildlife Photographer Proves Parkinson’s Is No Obstacle

For most people, holding a camera steady would seem critical for taking photographs, especially when capturing images of wildlife. For one photographer this is not always possible.

While wildlife photographer David Plummer may struggle to keep his hands steady since being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease seven years ago, his passion for his camera and animals has not waned.

Like many people with Parkinson’s, the UK-based photographer kept people in the dark about his diagnosis. That was until last week, with his announcement coinciding with Parkinson’s Awareness Week in the UK and the launch of the crowdfunding campaign for his book 7 Years of Camera Shake.

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Plummer says his book is not about Parkinson’s Disease, it is a coffee table book that just happens to contain photos that were taken since his diagnosis. The 200–250 photographs that are featured have been taken in the last seven years and showcase animals from around the world.

“This is not a book about what Parkinson’s has done to me, it’s a book about what it’s not done to me.”
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Plummer’s love for wildlife began when he was a child. At the age of seven or eight he was already dabbling in photography but, as he had no money, he had to use his uncle’s Prinzflex camera and a 135mm lens on Fuji Velvia ISO 50 film. This taught him the basics of photography and how to get close to small birds.

It wasn’t until 1994 that Plummer decided to pursue photography as a career. Finding himself in a competitive market, he worked odd jobs—as a cleaner and carer among other roles—to make ends meet while pursuing his dream of becoming a professional photographer. Now he is in a position where he is turning down jobs.

“I had to do a lot of work for many many years just to finance photography.”
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Now Plummer uses a Nikon D4. The lens he chooses depends on his subject matter, though often he’ll use a 200–400 f/4 (with a 1.4x converter). He spends each winter in Africa and while at home keeps busy shooting and teaching photography to others.

Many people diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease suffer from depression. Plummer believes happiness is a choice. He said: “You’ve got no control of what goes on around you, but you can choose how you react to it. However, having an outlet like wildlife, like photography and combining those two passions certainly focuses the mind”.

He added: “Those who don’t have that outlet or that passion, they’re potentially the ones who could struggle a little bit with the diagnosis”.

By talking about Parkinson’s, Plummer hopes that other people can see that their diagnosis doesn’t have to limit their goals.

“I don’t care if I’m stiff and aching, I’m still going to get that Tawny owl shot”
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Since Plummer’s diagnosis, not much has changed in the way he photographs — though he did add that he prefers faster shutter speeds now.

“I want to be considered world class, rather than ‘they’re pretty good photos for a guy with Parkinson’s Disease'”

The book is currently taking pledges here through Unbound, with 50% of the profits going to Parkinson’s UK. If the book gets enough backers it will be published by Random House or Penguin, guaranteeing much needed money for Parkinson’s UK and raising awareness in the process.

To see more of David Plummer’s work you can see him interviewed for BBC One, The One Show on Monday night, visit his website or Facebook page.

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All images used with permission