Ant Smith


These are the Leopards of Welling Garden City... my brother asked if Chris and I fancied a trip to a leopard sanctuary; to which we of course said yes. Only it wasn't really a sanctuary, it was just some one's back garden. The place wasn't open to the puplic, but occassionally a small number of photographers were granted access, so Chris, my brother and I had the company of around a dozen or less wild cats.

We were somewhat amazed to see the keeper enter the persian cub's cage armed with only a water pistol; but apparently she had only just moved in to the cage from his home (on account of her eating the kitchen) so they were in fact well bonded.

All of these shots were taken on film and printed in my own darkroom. I think I first printed them in the spare bedroom in our Stockton home, but I reworked them after we moved to London and I bought a Leica V35 enlarger. That enlarger came from the personal darkroom of the chap who basically invented Ilord Multigrade™ printing paper. It came with prototype filter modules, which was quite a nice piece of photographic history to have in the darkroom.

I used these as an application to the Royal Photographic Society ; but they thought they were a bit rubbishy really so nothing ever came of that. Appart from the fact I decided they were idiots because I very much liked these images. Yeah sure, now when I look at them I see all kinds of issues - they are probably not technically very wonderful - but I still actually like them. They have an air of the Victorian Explorer to my mind. And anyway, even bad photographs of leopards are good photographs. So here they are.

Oh! And a crop of the cub image (showng just the nose) did win the BBC Staff Photography competition for me; so perhaps I'm somewhat justified in liking these images!