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Living Dreams: BBC Wildlife Magazine

May 14, 2010

Sometimes, I think we overlook the fact that at times, we actually are living our dreams.

My first ten page “report” was for Ms. Anderson’s science class in middle school.  Internet was a mere figment of the future, and I was left to conventional sources:  the stale pages of Brittanica, and the glossy spreads of National Geographic – both educating me on the biology of Cetaceans. Slouching over my desk twelve hours before deadline, I tediously hand wrote each sentence with a pen, desperately hoping that simply rearranging the words counted as original thought. But, at that moment, more clear to me than anything else, was the effect of the images behind that yellow bordered cover – the creatures below the waves seemed alive.  The Sperm Whales gazed at me, watching me.  I remember thinking, “I want to be right next to you guys, just like the guy who took this picture.”

I turned in the report, and never gave it a second thought.

If I look back at all my seemingly small decisions, and the places I’ve ended up without even thinking about those decisions-there’s a pattern.  Each choice was made by following something that I felt within, but could not necessarily define.  It sounds simple and trite.  I chose to follow the moments that defined what I loved.  Looking back, if I had to explain those choices now, I’d say they were my Dreams and Aspirations-in chemical form.

Growing up overseas changes your chemical makeup-at least, that’s my excuse. Sentenced to an American high school at 14, I held on desperately to all things over the ocean. It wasn’t a conscious choice, but I never felt like I belonged, and  I missed my home; a home made of my past in another country.  From high school to college to real life after college, I spent a summers in France and Switzerland, and vacation weeks with family in Europe.  I signed up for a semester on a ship that went around the world.  I signed a contract to teach English in Taiwan.  I travelled alone.  I took off, I came back. I lived in New York where I unconventionally worked my way into a job at NBC TV by hostessing in a restaurant in the base of the NBC building–I met the night crew that came for breakfast; they brought my resume upstairs.  I later quit.  I traveled more.  I was a photographer’s assistant.  I got fired for disinterest.  I traveled again.  I waitressed again, I temped again, and I finally lied my way into a photo editing job-with nothing more to show than a portfolio of pretty pictures and some long eyelashes.

I made seemingly little decisions, I didn’t look to the outcomes.  I didn’t think.  I just called, or inquired, or desired, because I felt like it, and I could. I could not describe what I wanted.  I truly did not know.  All I knew, was how to hold on desperately to the few things that I knew I loved.  My friends were on paths to big careers….Doctors and Lawyers and Teachers.  They knew what they wanted to be.  I knew how pay the rent, and most of the time, I knew how to choose things I liked to do, to make that rent money. In the end, unbeknownst to me, those little paths, put me on a collision course with a fate that somehow I chose.

My grandfather was a photographer.  I barely knew him.  We made short infrequent visits to his house over the years.  He was often with a camera.  I never made the connection.  Had I known what I wanted, I could have learned from him.  I could have also majored in photography.  I did neither. I often wonder where I would be today, had I made those choices.  I’ve often wondered what my grandfather would think of me today—he who photographed Einstein and Mussolini, Louis Armstrong, and the first African American baseball team; he who has so wonderfully captured history.  I take images of animals.  If I could change the world with them, perhaps he’d be proud.  My father’s father; I grew up on the other side of the world from him. Our paths barely crossed – and now, I see, we loved the same, and followed what we loved.

National Geographic happened because I was bored at my job.  I took a workshop, and I kept in touch with the teacher.  A year later, I invited her to lunch one day while shooting in DC.

“I’d do anything to work at NG. “  My mouth had a mind of it’s own.

“Really?”  She sounded genuinely surprised.   “Well, there’s a position available down the hall from us, and one upstairs.  If you send me your resume, I can pass it along.”

And that’s how it happened.  Over lunch. I realized a dream that I never specifically set out for, but a dream that somehow, one long night, through the jaundiced light of my pink desk lamp, engrained itself for the duration, in my head.  It was the Sperm Whales.  There are times when I wish they had yelled from the pages:  “Go be a photographer! Go take a photo class. Here are the rules!  Here is the recipe!”  But, in the end,  their silence led me to the dreams that were already mine, they were just not yet translated.

My life has been defined by adventures, and places, and colors and faces.  I knew what I liked, but not what I wanted.  Along the way I picked a lot of the correct paths.  No one told me what to do.  I made many mistakes.  But, I stayed true to the only drives I knew–to see and experience—I found ways, and subconsciously perhaps, knew that I wanted something that all these things embodied.

I reflect, because today, I stand here in my life, and take a step to the side for just a minute so I can see it all clearly.  Again, at the end of a roundabout path, I am again, staring at one of these amazing unintentional dreams that has become real.  I fell in love with Africa years ago.  I spent all my free time going back.  My heart said I had to.  I knew no other reason why.  I took pictures.  I liked the pictures I took.  I went back.  The pictures got better.  Did I want to be a photographer?  I honestly never thought about it.  I just did it along with my day job.

Today, the June 2010 issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine-one of my bibles of wildlife photography–is on the stands.  My African Wild Dog pictures, that I’ve been taking for two years, are stunningly laid out in vivid color, on 14 glossy pages.  It wasn’t a goal I specifically set out to attain.  It’s another one of my crazy ‘fork in the roads’ that worked out-another one of those little dreams that ‘just happen’ for me, because somehow I made the perfect combination of choices. It’s a publication I never dreamt I could be in, and once again, somehow, my little decisions have led me to this place.

So, dreams happen while we are living our lives. They creep up on us when we shake a hand, or follow-up on a business card exchange, or have lunch.  Whether we know it or not, we do choose to make them happen.  What we need to remember, is to every once in a while for a moment, step outside ourselves;  look back,  smile,  and appreciate that some of our dreams, are what we are living.

*African Wild Dogs are a highly endangered species.  I hope you get a chance to see them on the pages of BBC Wildlife.

Thank you BBC. This dream is real.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. May 14, 2010 15:11

    You really have an exciting way with words. I love reading your writings. I do believe that Lucien would be awed.
    BTW, I thought the word was “unbeknown”…

  2. May 14, 2010 16:02

    So happy to be a witness of your successes. A great read and beautiful pictures. M

  3. May 19, 2010 14:17

    Congratulations on living the dream, and the BBC Wildlife Magazine photos! The dogs are fantastic and you have some great shots – obviously!
    I feel I’ve ended up in a similar situation. Never really knew what I wanted to do but moved to Africa, stayed for 9 years and now I’m a professional wildlife artist. Strange twists and turns put me on this path. So, once again, congratulations. Enjoy it!

    • May 21, 2010 20:31


      Thank you-your comments are much appreciated! You’ll have to fill me in on how you moved to Africa and stayed…i think that’s the next dream to be realized, just need to figure out how!

  4. Barbara moritsch permalink
    May 19, 2010 16:38

    Marc sent this on to me–it is fabulous, Karine–great pics, wonderful words. Thank you for sharing.

  5. June 12, 2010 17:00

    Karine, congratulations on the BBC article. Your Mum called me and told me about it. Your pictures are amazing.

  6. November 26, 2011 17:10

    I loved the issue where your images were portray. As a university student doing a course in wildlife and media i was immensely captivated and inspired. My dream is to focus on the Canidae family from around the world and one day take photos as good as yours.
    Thank you for inspiring me and my dream. xx

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