Normally based in Berkshire, Anya has recently bought a cottage on the North Devon coast, where she’s been doing “a lot of coastal photography, and coastal living”.
With Anya Campbell
“I lived for three years in mid-Devon, and from there spent a lot of time catching lobsters at low tide, mackerel fishing, coastal foraging. I’ve been lucky to get to know some fairly hidden places and what amazes me is how few people know this stuff’s there, so readily available and easy to catch. Collecting mussels: you get them off the beach, clamber up the cliff and stick them in a pot. It seems people don’t realise you can do that. Or maybe they don’t want to. We’re looking forward to a forage and cook with Tom Godber-Ford Moore, food on the beach.
Anya’s winters are predominantly spent working on shoots. A freelance commission from the Shooting Times, many years ago, gave her a taste for photographing field sports, and since then she’s worked for leading sporting agents and private clients, along with regular commissions from the main sporting and country titles; Shooting Times, The Field, Country Life, Shooting Gazette. “I tend to work with the same people year on year, covering multiple trips both in the UK and abroad.”
All freelancers value regular repeating work, but does she find there’s something especially attractive about working with the sporting community?
“I’m a ‘countryside’ photographer, but shooting in particular is a beautiful sport to capture, there’s so much shape, form and texture surrounding it. As a professional photographer [Anya trained at the London School of Printing] I am always looking at light, the way it falls on things and its effect. You can be subjected to four seasons in a single day on a shoot, so if you are not careful photos from a single day can look as if they were taken on completely different days. Like any photographer I want my images to be timeless, to have a distinctive quality or integrity.
“Photographing in the field isn’t without its challenges. Obviously, the first issue is that you’ve only got natural light to work with. Then of course there’s the climate: cameras aren’t built for rain but I’ve been doing it for long enough that I’m not really fazed by any of that.
“shooting is a beautiful sport to capture, there’s so much shape, form and texture”
“I have produced books on a year in the life of various sporting estates creating a photographic record of the activities, in and out of season. I am struck by the incredible amount of hard work that goes into providing a day’s sport. People turn up and birds fly over their heads without the guns understanding how that’s been put together, the sheer grind involved in making it happen.”
I agree that this awareness – a more widespread recognition of the behind-the-scenes work required to provide a good day’s sport – is becoming a constant refrain, not just here in TG Towers but among the more enlightened guns. Anya doesn’t herself shoot: “I’ve had plenty of opportunities and offers, but to be honest I prefer to stand aside and do the job I do.” Instead her purely sporting enthusiasm is reserved for riding, regularly going out with two hunts close to her Berkshire base, a discussion which takes us into unexpected regions.
In 2010 Anya competed in the Mongol Derby, the thousand km multi-horse race across Outer Mongolia. She strapped a camera body and one lens to the pommel of her saddle and documented the race. As a result, in February last year she was asked by its organisers to do the same thing for the first running of the Gaucho Derby. A five hundred km horserace through the High Andes that has been billed as the greatest test of horsemanship on earth, Anya was invited to ride the full course and once again document the race. “Sony sponsored me to take along two of their latest mirrorless cameras to test how robust they were in all conditions. They endured scorching heat, torrential rain, river crossings and snow and still worked at the finish line.
“It was an extraordinary adventure and a huge challenge to photograph from a moving animal, deliver processed images from the field (I had to charge my laptop off a truck engine) and then satellite them around the world.
“At one point an unexpected snowstorm trapped us in the mountains, with four of the 24 riders suffering hypothermia. We couldn’t move on as deep snow prevented the horses from reading the treacherous boggy ground, and the 160kph winds meant the air ambulance couldn’t airlift off the critical riders. All of a sudden a photo job had become a lifesaving mission, and we all worked together to keep everyone alive. Two days passed before they were eventually flown to hospital. Everyone survived, but the only way out for the rest of us was to swim the horses across a glacial lake, me with my cameras around my neck, as the ground was too dangerous to navigate.
“As you’d expect the race is very big on animal welfare, but designed to be as tough as possible for the riders. It’s most definitely not a pony trek. They wanted a challenge for people who like more than a whiff of danger, and they certainly got that right.”
A full life and a merry one, I suggest. “Oh, I feel so lucky to be doing what I do. And to be able to call it work is a privilege.”
Anya’s works can be found at https://anyacampbell.com/