- Wildlife Cameraman: An Appreciation
Angie and I were deeply shocked and saddened to hear of the death of Cape Town wildlife filmmaker Richard Matthews
Richard - who co-owned Table Mountain Films - and pilot Mark Berry died earlier this week in a plane crash in Namibia while filming aerials for an international documentary.
wife Sammantha were old friends of ours dating back to the 1980s here in Kenya.
We join their many friends in sending our love and condolences to Sammantha and her
children and all the family - and to Mark's family too.
I first met him in the early 1980s while working on the story of The Leopard's Tale (1985).
enjoyed roaming Fig Tree Ridge and Leopard Gorge (above) as much as Angie and I love to - home to Chui, Half-Tail, and Zawadi in times past.
He was a talented stills photographer with a great love of East Africa and its people and wildlife.
had already established himself as an Assistant Producer with the BBC Natural History Unit
But his heart was always in Africa where he was born.
was very much his
own man and we all knew that Richard
would never settle for second best.
had a great eye for the shot and a wonderful understanding of light.
He was an artist with his camera and soon decided he wanted to set up on his own as a wildlife cameraman.
heard that a leopard mother had given birth to three cubs along Rhino Ridge in 1985 he
decided to step up.
That meant taking moving out of his
comfort zone - mortgaging his
home and heading back to Africa - literally putting his
money where his
We spoke on the phone when I was in the UK - he
was concerned about the risk he
was taking but I knew this was what he
needed to do - this was his
golden opportunity - one of those moments when you have to decide if you are going to live the life of your dreams - or step back.
was feisty, competitive and totally dedicated to his
film on the leopard mother - it was a classic - some of the shots were achingly beautiful in their artistry - he
really did have that magic ingredient.
There was a 'look' to his
work that was all his
By getting stuck in like this he
reputation on the line - he
was filming the same leopard that the BBC
decided they wanted to film for the Natural World!
Typically that just made Richard
all the more determined and he
got some unique footage along the way - including a 'killer' sequence to top it off when the mother leopard leapt out of a tree to snatch a zebra foal!
then worked with the legendary wildlife cameraman Alan Root in the Serengeti around the time I was collecting material for books on the wildebeest migration and the wild dogs.
Samantha gave Richard
her dedication, loyalty and love - and the wonderful children that were and are so special to them both.
worked with us on Big Cat Diary and we always knew Richard's
'rushes' - they were so beautifully shot - with his
unerring eye for sidelight and backlight, mood and emotion.
Samantha and Richard
agonised over the economics of whether to buy a home in Kenya or head south to where Richard
had grown up.
So they headed south with Richard
now intent on combining his
love of flying with his
craft as a cameraman.
was a man of many talents.
was a leader and a pioneer in his
had what it takes to step up.
And even though we lost contact with Richard
and Samantha these past few years we were always delighted to hear news of their achievements.
had a soft and sensitive side that sometimes got hidden by his
drive and determination to complete his
But anyone who knew Richard
well understood his
vision, saw his
kindness and loving side, admired his
will be sorely missed by his
friends and family.
14 comments on " Richard Matthews
- Wildlife Cameraman: An Appreciation"
That early leopard film by Richard
from the 1980s was an inspiration, I had never seen such intimate footage of wild leopards before that.
What a terrible loss.
Thank you Jonathan and Angie
for a touching tribute to Richard
I first met him in 1979 (!) when he first joined the NHU and a gang of us would hang out together in a (rather smaller, then!) Bristol.
Mandy's just gone out to be with Sam and Nathan and Bella for a little while... I'm joining them for the memorial on Sunday in Cape Town.
I have only the greatest respect for Richard
as a filmmaker - and affection as a friend.
Best wishes to you both, Brian