I jokingly say I “stalked” Laurie Marker at a CCF event fifteen years ago in Santa Cruz, California. I was a young, twenty –something photographer who had hatched a plan to spend all my savings and go to East Africa to photograph a family of wild cheetahs. I was desperate to meet Laurie, who I knew by reputation as the world’s leading expert on cheetahs and a woman whose strength I admired. I stayed at the event late, so that I could secure some one-on-one time with Laurie after the crowds cleared. Many people would have seen me as a naïve and even crazy young woman, but Laurie was open, listened to my plan intently, encouraged me and then blew my mind by asking how she could help. We decided to partner together on a book, something that was beyond my wildest dreams at the time. This is one of Laurie’s most special qualities, she believes in people and their ability to change the world. Laurie has hope, which can feel like a rare commodity in the conservation world.
A few months after that meeting I changed my life radically. I quit the day job, ended a romantic relationship, drained my bank account and hopped on a plane heading to East Africa. I spent three years living on my own in a bush camp in Kenya’s Masai Mara, documenting the lives of five different cheetah families. There were then multiple visits to CCF in Namibia to photograph the conservation work and visually tell the story of how we can ensure that cheetahs have a future. My times at CCF showed me what real conservation looks like, and the dedication and relentless work it takes to really make an impact.
Our new little book is a gift book, so it is perfect for giving to friends and family to show them why cheetahs are worth saving. As the title suggests, the book is a celebration of cheetahs, and I hope that the images, along with Laurie’s beautiful words, might encourage more people to support the work of CCF.
It is not enough to fall in love with cheetahs, we have to fight for them.