The Power of Storytelling
David Yarrow’s unique brand of storytelling on an epic scale has made him one of the most successful and collectible fine art photographers in the world.
Exclusively represented in the UK by Maddox Gallery, internationally renowned fine art photographer David Yarrow is a master in capturing immersive images of life on earth, whether he is channelling the magic and brilliance of the big screen, telling his own cinematic stories or shooting wild beasts in their natural habitats. For his latest blockbuster exhibition, ‘Storytelling’, Yarrow has taken over three floors of space at Maddox’s prestigious new Mayfair gallery at 12 Berkeley Street. A not-to-be-missed exhibition at Maddox’s largest address yet, we go behind the scenes with the artist to uncover the fascinating narratives behind some of the works on show.
Yarrow’s magnificent photography frequently takes the photographer far off the beaten track. Marshlands, for example, was shot on location at the Dinokeng Game Reserve in South Africa, the morning after a violent thunderstorm. Accompanied by Kevin Richardson, The Lion Whisperer, Yarrow waded out into the flooded marshlands, hoping to come face to face with the region’s notorious resident.
“We often talk about bad weather being an opportunity not a threat and the torrential rain in the region offered a chance for us to practice what we preach,” says Yarrow of the build-up to his extraordinary shot. “These lions are wild, and the only way to gain proximity is to use remotes or work from a very heavy cage. Remotes were a non-runner with the water levels, so it was time for me to get very wet and suck it up. The end result made it all worthwhile. I can’t really get more out of an adult male lion than this, and what a majestic animal he is.”
When working with animals in the wild, luck often plays a major role, as was the case with The Rolling Stones, which features a herd of Mustang horses, shot at the Mustang Monument Ranch in Nevada, which is owned by Madeleine Pickens. “There are over 1,000 mustangs in her care in Nevada,” explains Yarrow, “and I observed that they often behave in a skittish and sheepish way, running in big collectives in one direction for no particular reason. The odds of this happening directly towards my camera in decent light were small.”
Late one afternoon in January 2023, Yarrow had his chance. “Almost all of my images in that five minutes of chaos were cluttered and messy, as is often the case with untamed horses,” he recalls. “But luckily, and it was luck, one split second offered the chance to embody everything I could have wished for and more. After some deliberation on what to call this big picture, I went for The Rolling Stones, for reasons that don’t really need to be explained. I can almost hear the pounding of the hoofs when I look at it.”
Yarrow’s unique perspective on the world is not reserved to nature alone. Meticulously planned and composed, his powerful works inspired by the great film directors are dramatic and transportive. Exuding adventure, he has the unique ability to capture a complex narrative in a single shot. Shot in the desert resort of Palm Springs in California, Don’t Worry Darling is seeped in saturated colours. Featuring supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio – a long-time collaborator of Yarrow’s – it evokes the gauzy, saccharine pleasures of the town that became known as Hollywood’s playground in the 1950s.
Similarly capturing the freedom and mobility of post-war America, Route 66 is emphatically American. “In the autumn of 2022, I scouted for shooting locations in California and Arizona that would offer a Route 66 vibe and I found it to be a challenge,” says Yarrow of hunting down the setting of this striking black-and-white image. “So many of the motels and diners along the route are either abandoned or, worse still, have become kitsch tourist attractions. Then I stumbled across the town of Holbrook and the Wigwam Motel. Holbrook is as good a canvas on which to tell a Route 66 story as I know. To drive through sections of the old town is to go back 60 years.”
Cities have always been a major pull for Yarrow, with New York the setting for two new works that pay homage to legendary films. The Dumbo location of Pretty Woman – an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass – is a celebration of the urban beauty that NYC excels at. “Of course, we would be swapping LA for New York,” says Yarrow of his iconic composition, “but it is not as if the kind of exchange suggested in the photograph is alien to the Big Apple.”
Similarly atmospheric, the stark stare of a wolf, standing in front of the New York Stock Exchange Building, draws the viewer into Wall Street. A reflection of the ruthless desire to succeed in the city’s famous financial district, in a previous life Yarrow worked on Wall Street as a trader, which added a sense of purpose to the shot, as well as a personal connection.
On the day of the shoot, Yarrow had to think on his feet: “I wanted a written reference as well as the architectural reference somewhere in the frame. The green street signposts of ‘Wall Street’ were too high to incorporate meaningfully into the picture, and I saw no real workable alternative. But by some extraordinary stroke of luck, when I found my shooting location lying on the cobbled street, there, smack in front of me on the road, was a museum plate that spoke of Wall Street’s history. I had no idea it was there and at the margin this detail makes all the difference. This was not an easy shot, but we got there and to the best of my knowledge, we got there first.”
Whether he is shooting in the streets of New York or the wilds of Antarctica, wild horses wouldn’t keep Yarrow from securing the perfect shot – something that can only be appreciated by standing in front of one of his epic works. From his awe-inspiring scenes of nature to his narrative-driven masterpieces, the artist’s ability to tell a story is a gift best appreciated in person.