Fading From View
My project “Extinct" aims to highlight our quickly vanishing natural world. Just as photographs can fade over time, so many species on our planet are also permanently fading from view. The delicate chemical process of film photography I have chosen highlights the fragility of the medium as well as the state of existence of the species portrayed. Compositions bare the mark of their making. The edges of the frames are vanishing. Imperfections are left on view.
As analogue photography is replaced by digital, and as the natural world is confined and destroyed, we should be asking ourselves if we are changing the character of our own being. How will we find courage without the lion? Power without the elephant? The Past without physical evidence? Our characters, strengths and fears, have been forged through time by other creatures and the environment. Losing these, we lose a part of ourselves.
Will photographs be the only remaining testament of our primordial past or will we rise up to protect the fragile environment we all depend upon? These images are documents of our planet’s beauty but also a testament to all we have to lose.
The Extinct series is full of personal meanings for me. When I was younger I had a passion for wildlife and wanted to work as a wildlife photographer, travel the world and spend time besides other living beings. I always hoped to do something to protect the natural world I loved so much. The title ‘Extinct’ is meant to make us cringe at the idea that the animals portrayed may be already extinct. Of course this is not yet a reality but may soon be one with the accelerating climate crises.
I am shooting this body of work using ILFORD black and white film. This adds to the feeling that we are looking at extinct animals, such as the already extinct Tasmanian tiger. The idea of losing iconic species such as the lion, elephant, or rhino is just heartbreaking. By securing landscapes for these larger animals the future of other species, small and large, will also be protected.
Male lions are banished from prides when they reach maturity. They must leave the dominant male’s territory and build their own prides. At this crucial point the bonds cemented as youngsters dictate their alliances. Brothers will most likely spend entire lives together in a coalition, making their chances of survival higher and ensuring a more stable realm. I waited hours for these two to wake from slumber, but once they did I was not disappointed.
One of the wonders of the world, this massive movement of herbivores is a sight to behold. However tourism has somewhat corrupted the scene, and one cannot visit in the high season without having to work around hundreds of land cruisers full of safari goers. As the animals rush towards the river they raise dust into the atmosphere and create their own cloud.
An alert mother cheetah listens for prey and for potential threats to her cubs. One is not always well positioned when photographing wildlife from a car. However there is always a way to make the best out of a tough perspective.
A lone spotted hyena was wondering around a watering hole at high noon. As she searched for a position to cool herself she graced the border of the pool with a romantic reflection.
He slept undeterred by my presence for hours. Then lifted his massive head, stretching his neck upwards and gazing far into the landscape. Only he knows towards what. I could see nothing in the vast Serengeti plains. An allegory of silence and power.
These zebra were migrating north, and their numbers were certainly in the hundreds if not thousands. They stretched left of this image all the way to the horizon in a long column, and they were stopping just below frame for a sip of water from a river. The scene was magnificent. I was not very well positioned to express its grandeur. I wish I had been in the tree to capture the scene from above and get the whole migration column in foreshortening.
Mother of five
Five days I returned for her. Each day a new scene in a new place. The tension and drama in the life of a mother with a large litter is palpable. Constantly on the lookout for prey and menace, the task of rearing a family was written in her spots. She slept with her neck propped up. Eyes closed. Ears moving, visualising sound. When she was silent, they stayed. A chirp, they moved. An unspoken discipline: silent unity, a twitch of a tail, head high, ears forward. No words.
Before the hunt
I spent a whole day, resting and observing from my land cruiser, next to this pride of lioness. They crowded under the massive stone for shade during the hottest hours. Then, as the sun became clement, they started waking one after another and perking their ears to the sounds of the African bush.
Images ©Federico Pestilli
About The Author
Federico Pestilli works with top fashion brands delivering digital content for social media platforms while pursuing work in fine art, traveling the world, and taking constant inspiration from his city of birth, Rome, Italy. His black and white work is entirely shot on Ilford films (HP5 and Delta 400) of which he appreciates the feel and exposure latitude. He currently lives and works out of London.