• The World With MNR Team

Meet Shannon Wild: South Africa-based Wildlife Photographer who Started Her Own Bracelet Brand

Updated: Jun 6

Maryam and Nivaal Rehman | Toronto, Canada


Photo Credit: @Shannon_Wild on Instagram


We had the pleasure of interviewing Shannon Wild a few weeks ago on Instagram Live, to discuss her journey as a Wildlife photographer and filmmaker, and also the founder of “Wild In Africa: Bracelets for Wildlife.” We're sharing her story on our blog in light of #WorldEnvironmentDay, because we believe that the work she is doing through her company for wildlife conservation is just incredible! Here are some highlights from our interview with her:


1. When did your passion for wildlife photography and cinematography first begin?


It happened in stages. The wildlife part was from the very beginning, and I think that’s something that has just been innate for me. I’ve always had it. I was alway the kid that was running around after animals and fascinated by everything, including insects and reptiles - anything I could find. That was the motivating factor for me. And then I actually worked as a graphic designer for about five years, which indulged my creative side. I actually started photography as a hobby, and so naturally, I decided to photograph my pets. My pets happened to be reptiles. I love, love reptiles. I quickly realized that I enjoyed it far more than the graphic design that I was doing. And it was this incredible way for me to combine two passions. The creative outlet, with my passion for wildlife. I started down that long, long journey and I’m into year 17 now, so I’ve been doing it for quite a while.


Photo Credit: @Shannon_Wild on Instagram


I think when you talk in terms of the passion coming through and the emotion coming through in the images, it is that reason, it’s because I’m so passionate about it and I’m just so happy to be there in the moment. And so I think that’s where people will excel, if they can combine the passion in their work, it will come through in the result.

2. What is the animal that interests you the most?

It’s hard to pick one because there’s so many species that I dreamed of growing up, that I watched in documentaries, read in books, and then finally got the chance to see. If I really had to choose one, last year, I had the opportunity to photograph a pengolin, which, maybe people know a little bit more about now, given the current climate, because they have been blamed as one of the animals which the virus has come from, but it’s an incredibly beautiful, scales mammal. And they’re in Southeast Asia, and also Africa. And they’re really quite rare. I work in the field, and I’m out there, often every day, and I know field guides who have done this for twenty years and they have never seen a pengolin. So it was one of those things, where it was always high on my wish list, but I didn’t have my expectations very high. So when I got the opportunity to see one, photograph one, I actually, once it was all over, I actually cried. And I’m not the most emotional person, and I’ve had incredible experiences, but that one was really quite touching for me. It was something that I never thought I would get to do. And they are so cute.


3. What advice do you have for aspiring photographers or cinematographers, whether that’s in the field of wildlife, or just in general?


Photo Credit: @Shannon_Wild on Instagram


With the way the media is going, it’s obviously a very (and it always has been) competitive field, but I think even more so now. And I think viewers’ expectations are very high now as well. We see quality, and we know quality. So the bar is high, and it’s a very desirable and competitive field.


My best advice is persistence. And you can relate that honestly to any vocation. Because at the end of the day, that’s what’s going to set you apart from the people who have given up along the way. I think it comes back around to the passion aspect, because that’s what’s going to give you the motivation to keep going.

In my particular experience, this is a very difficult job, I’m so fortunate and I love it, but it’s really physically demanding and it’s very competitive, and difficult. I’ve met a lot of sacrifices along the way to get here in many ways, but especially health-wise, and pushing my body to the limits. I’ve had a lot of opportunity to give up, and give up without judgement. I had good, legitimate reasons to say that I gave it a really good go, but I’m going to do something else. But I didn’t, and that’s the only reason that I’m here today and even after coming into 17 years, I feel like I’m just getting into stride. I finally have really great networking connections, and incredible clients like National Geographic. It’s not about the end goal, or about the destination, it’s about the journey and whether you set out to be a National Geographic photographer or filmmaker, you have to be in it for the journey. Otherwise, you won’t get to that point. It’s just so difficult. So I think persistence is the absolute key. You should practise and make mistakes. I’m self-taught, so I didn’t do any official training, but I was so fascinated by it. And when I first started out, there was no YouTube so it’s so much easier to find and learn anything these days. So you really don’t have an excuse. You just have to keep going, because it’s worth it. It’s really worth it in the end.


4. Can you tell us about your brand “Wild In Africa”?


Photo Credit: @ShannonWildJewellery on Instagram


It actually came from a place of self-isolation, and extreme illness. So, mid 2017, I collapsed out in the middle of nowhere in Kenya, in the Masai Mara. And I’d just pushed my body to absolute exhaustion. And it had been building for a few years, I was overworking myself trying to establish my connections and do all this work but my body said that we’ve crossed the limit, and that’s it. So I was actually found unconscious in the bush, in an area that’s frequented by lions so I’m very lucky that nothing happened. And I’m not sure how long I was there, but it was long enough that I had gravel embedded in my face by then. And so I was medevaced to the capital, Nairobi, and I was in a hospital for a while, and managed to get back to South Africa. And I started the very slow process of six months recovery. Three months were completely bed-ridden and the other three months were very limited physical ability.


But in those last three months, my mental clarity started to come back, and so, because I couldn’t get out into the field, I didn’t even have the strength to pick up a camera, I was incredibly creatively frustrated. And I felt like I needed a creative outlet, but I was also missing my connection to wildlife and the bush and being able to contribute in some way. Over the previous few years I’d built up quite an eclectic collection of bracelets that I bought in many, many different countries and from different cultures. And it kind of became a trademark on my Instagram. People were always asking me about where I got this and that. And so, I had a lot of time to think, I was laying in bed stuck there for a long time, so I actually broke apart a few of those and just started reassembling and creating and just getting the creative juices flowing and I found that I actually really enjoyed it.


It was something that I was physically capable of doing in this incapacitated state. It naturally then led to, if I could sell these, then this could become a great way to raise money for wildlife conservation, so I’m still giving back. I had all the contacts, I worked with these people in the field, I’ve seen the incredible work they do and how important funding is, and how every cent helps. So, with my background in graphic design, I was in a really great place that I could build a brand, and the website and all the marketing and all that kind of thing. And they actually started to sell, surprisingly. I started to take it a bit more seriously, and I built a dedicated website, and created “Wild in Africa,” registered the business and haven’t looked back since.


5. Can you tell us about what makes your bracelets eco-friendly and why you believe its important for companies to be environmentally conscious?


That’s obviously something very close to my heart. I wanted the brand to be both socially and environmentally conscious. What that means is, once I got to a point where the business built enough that I couldn’t keep up with physically making all of the orders myself, and of course was then able to get back into the field and I had filming commitments, I immediately then started to find really talented women who help with making them. So they’re all hand-made, every single one. I’ve designed every single one, and then I show that design to the ladies and they make it. I have very talented artisans here in South Africa where I’m based and also in Turkey, and I also have a metal atelier in Turkey, a gentleman there. I will design a metal piece or a pendant for example, and he will turn it into reality for me. And we source beads from all over the world, and quite often, especially when you’re dealing with stones and chrystals at this size, they’re generally off-cuts, or leftover from other things. And a great example of that is our Coconut wood bracelet. In the coconut industry, the tree has a certain lifespan and when it is at the end of that lifespan and it is being cut down and we can utilize that wood so then it’s put into something beautiful and and long-lasting as opposed to being stripped and burned. Also, our packaging is all eco-friendly, so all the orders come in a reusable little jewelry bag, it’s a very natural jute bag. We don’t use plastic, things like that.



6. You also support conservation efforts with various organizations, so can you tell us more about that, and why this is important for you as well?

Photo Credit: @Shannon_Wild on Instagram


This is definitely the most important part, and something that I’m especially proud of. We’re very clear and transparent about how much we give to charity. It’s easy to be ambiguous when selling a retail product that raises money for charities. It’s also tricky to navigate which charities your money should go to, because you don’t know how that money is going to be used. So there’s a two-fold issue. Especially for those people that aren’t here in the field, and actually get to deal with people and conservation groups and see what they’re doing.


I have partnered with organizations that I know personally, that I have worked with, and that I have documented in the field. I see what they do, and where they go. And I’m not choosing huge organizations, I’m choosing grassroots, on-the-ground wildlife organizations.

Some are local to me, some are around Africa, I have one in Fiji that I’ve worked with personally, and also one in India because I spent 18 months filming a documentary there, and was involved in the inception of that charity. What I’m really proud of, is that we give 50% of the purchase price. The beauty of that is we can donate from day one, sale one. If you purchase a bracelet, you know that half of what you paid is going straight to that charity.


_____


In light of World Environment Day, we encourage you all to support "Wild In Africa" and the amazing conservation organizations that the organization donates 50% of their purchase price to, by buying a bracelet (or more!). Visit the "Wild In Africa" website here: https://wildinafrica.shop/


You can watch our full interview with Shannon here: https://www.instagram.com/tv/CAYFlrPJeZu/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link


Stay updated with Shannon's journey by following her across social media:

Instagram: @shannon_wild

Twitter: @shannon_wild

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/ShannonWildTV






  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube

© 2019 by Maryam and Nivaal Rehman