3 min read
What happens when you combine wild animals with supermodels in an old western bar? In a special episode of the Walker Webcast, we were joined by world-famous photographer and conservationist David Yarrow who weighed in on this and the stories behind many of his famous photographs.
Although best known as a photographer, David has had a rather interesting career path, as he started in banking and has spent time as a hedge fund manager. David touched on everything from watching a football match from a helicopter to how he imagines, produces, and captures his iconic images.
After taking one of the most iconic photos in the history of sports with Maradona at the World Cup Finals in Mexico City and receiving a measly royalty check of just $3, David was unsure of how much money was truly in photography. Although his next famous photo, a great white shark breaching the water to bite a seal, netted him $15,000, David realized that it cost him roughly $28,000 to capture this moment. That was when he realized that he would never be able to turn a profit if he kept operating the same way.
Not long after David took this famous shot, he received a call from a lawyer inquiring about the photo of the great white. The lawyer wanted a large print of the photo for his law office, and when David quoted him $7,000 for one print, the lawyer happily ordered five of them. David then had the realization that to turn photography into a profitable business, he had to work at the high end of the industry, focus on taking 5-6 impeccable shots per year, and heavily restrict the number of prints.
While David has traveled the world and experienced countless cultures, he believes that the United States is still a land of opportunity. He attributes this to the tremendous amount of geographic mobility this country offers. In many countries, people are often restricted in where they can move, with a large percentage of the world’s population never moving outside of the town in which they grew up.
However, in the United States, many people have children in their 20s and 30s who have moved all over the country, sometimes thousands of miles away from where they grew up. This is a privilege that many countries (even countries in Europe) don’t have, and it opens up areas of opportunity that are uniquely American.
Although many people believe that it’s the camera that makes the photographer, that’s not what David believes. Instead, he believes that photography is all about access and your heart, as photography is an outer manifestation of your inner soul. While many believe that beauty can’t be found in places like North Korea, great photographers like David are able to capture breathtaking photos of things that many people just walk by on a daily basis. This shows itself in a captivating photo he took of a steel mill just outside of Pyongyang.
David finds a lot of inspiration from a person that most would regard as one of the greatest photographers of all time, Ansel Adams. One of his favorite Adams quotes is, “You don’t take pictures; you make them.” This means a photographer might have to go to great lengths to get the perfect shot, and of course, having the right access helps with this. To take his famed photo, “Mankind”, David traveled all the way to South Sudan in the middle of a war to capture an image of the cattle camps. However, setting up the photo wasn’t as simple as hopping on a plane. David had to travel with a ladder, traversing rugged terrain and crossing the crocodile-infested Nile so he could have the proper elevation to take his famed shot.
I regularly have the privilege to interview some of the most interesting people this world has to offer, from famous artists to executives at some of the largest firms in the world. If you want to see the entire episode with David, or take a look at our upcoming guest list, be sure to check out the Walker Webcast.
If you have any comments or questions about the evolving economic landscape and how it is impacting the CRE space, our experts are available and fully operational to help. Additionally, if you have topics you would like covered during one of our future Walker Webcast, we would be happy to take your suggestions.
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Willy Walker: David Yarrow went to the University of Edinburgh and wanted to be a photographer. He decided he wanted to be a sports photographer, so he headed over to the World Cup in Mexico City and Argentina was playing and Diego Maradona was the star of the Argentine team. Argentina wins, and at the end of the game, all of the photographers around the outside of the field had these very, very long telephoto lenses on their camera bodies, and they all go running out onto the field. David had decided that the picture that he needed to get was going to be a very up close picture. So, he needed a wide-angle lens, but he had these huge long telephoto lenses with him, and he couldn't run onto the field with all of his equipment and get the photograph with the smaller lens and the wide-angle lens. So, he took his equipment, and he left it in the goal area, (all of his big, expensive equipment in the World Cup, not knowing whether it would be there when he came back, and he went running onto the field with a wide-angle lens.) Diego Maradona grabs the World Cup, is hoisted over the shoulders of his teammates, and David's right there with a wide-angle lens to get Diego Maradona holding up the World Cup above him. And it is the iconic photograph of that World Cup.
David takes it and it goes out and it gets syndicated around the world – and it's on the front page of every newspaper around the world. He gets his syndication rate check back, and it's about $3.50. And he goes, “This business sucks.”
David said, “I think I'll probably do better off being in banking.” He goes to NatWest Bank, and he becomes a banker, and as he becomes an investor, he decides that he's going to bound out on his own and he raises some money from friends and family, and he sets up a hedge fund. To David's own admission, he was a perfectly good, but not great hedge fund manager. And he's managing a couple hundred million dollars. Not a whole lot of money.
And interesting because of the guest I just had on the stage, the first plane hits Tower 1, and David doesn't like how it feels. If you all remember, as Condoleezza Rice just said, she calls the president the United States, and says a plane just hit the World Trade Center. President goes on and has his meeting with those school kids in Florida. And we thought it was just an accident. It wasn't until 18 minutes later that we knew that it was a terrorist attack. Gentleman sitting in the corner here said, “I don't like this. Sell every position we have.” And in the next 18 minutes, this trading desk sold every position that his hedge fund was managing. Tower 2 gets hit 18 minutes later; world markets fall up by 45%.
October 2001 - every investor in the world is looking at financial statements that have their portfolios down by somewhere between 40% and 70%. And the people who are investors in David's hedge fund were up by 3% and they said he's a genius. So overnight he went from running a small hedge fund to running a very large hedge fund. He had $1,000,000,000 of capital sent to him between October of 2001 and the beginning of 2002. So, for the next six years, David ran that billion dollars of capital. And again, to his own admission, he was a good hedge fund manager, he was not a great hedge fund manager, but doing well with a lot of capital and making good money.
But when that billion dollars came into David, it came in the same way that the first $10 million came in, which was from friends and family and his subscription agreement said: you invest, you want your money back, call me up any time and I'll give it back to you. So fast forward to 2008, Bernie Madoff is discovered to be one of the biggest frauds ever in investing history and one of Bernie Madoff's biggest investors was Fairfield Capital which was David's largest investor.
So just as overnight in 2001, he went from having a small hedge fund to having a big hedge fund – overnight in 2008, he went from having a large hedge fund to having a very small hedge fund because all of his investors pulled their capital because of the fears around Fairfield Capital.
Because of that experience in the hedge fund world, David woke up in 2009 and said, “What am I going to do now?” And he looked back to his early career being a photographer and said, “Let's go give that a try.” And it was to our great benefit that David had that turn in his career.
I first saw David's work. My gosh, I've seen David's work for a long period of time. The one that really captured me, though, there was a picture in front of the Big Timber bar in Big Timber, Montana, and my parents owned a ranch in Big Timber, Montana. There is this photograph in front of the Big Timber bar with this beautiful supermodel in a convertible Cadillac with a wolf sitting in the passenger seat with his paws perched up on top, and you just couldn't believe the image. I have it in my home in Denver, Colorado.
It immediately said to me, I've got to study, David, I got to follow David, and I got to buy David. As you will see over the next hour, what David has done with his camera and the way that he has used his view of the world and his incredible talents as a photographer is really a sight to behold.
So, David Yarrow.
David Yarrow: I know I'm going to be in everyone's bad books because it's because I'm here that Earth, Wind and Fire aren’t here, and then I'm following on from Madam Secretary. Very, very humbling to have to do that. I thought I better start in an appropriate way, given who's just been on.
One thing I can do that I don't think she was able to do is go to North Korea. I decided because as a Brit, I'm from Glasgow in Scotland and I apologize if not every word that I say registers with you. There's a few words with O's in the middle of my book and cook that we just can't really pronounce.
This is a Japanese airline flight that was leaving Tokyo in 1970 to get to Osaka. And it was hijacked. It was hijacked by what's called the Japanese Red Army. They weren't really terrorists. They were more kind of idealists. They wanted to get to Cuba, which is quite a long way in economy, never mind in a hijacked plane. And that's the only good as far as Seoul. And the South Koreans said, listen, you don't get to stay here. And then they had enough petrol left or fuel to get to North Korea. So, the South Koreans ordered that they get rid of all the hostages and the six hijackers who'd actually hijacked the plane with samurai swords, which showed a lot of what security must have been like in Tokyo in 1970, were arrested. I'm sure as a previous speaker would inform you much better than I could that the Japanese and the North Koreans don't get on particularly well. So, the Japanese were told, “Welcome to North Korea for the rest of your life.”
I tell that story because when I went two years just before COVID, I wanted to watch a football match, “soccer” in your terms. And of course, in North Korea, you're not allowed to watch the Housewives of Beverly Hills or Champions League Football or anything like that. So, they just laughed, and they said no. But the fifth day into the trip, I'd earned the confidence of the people that were looking after me, and they're all government officials. They drank whiskey all day, which suited me down to the ground. They said, actually there is one place on the East Coast where you can watch the game. And they took me to where the six hijackers had been since 1970 drinking whiskey for the last 48 years. (In photo) So that's me and the hijackers watching Liverpool by Munich and North Korea. And Condoleezza Rice has not been able to do that!
(In photo) That was actually a steel plant I photographed near Pyongyang. Photography is all about access. So, it's not about a camera – it's about access, and your heart and your soul. The camera is just a piece of metal. Your greatest photographer, Ansel Adams said that: “Photography is about the poems you've read, the loves you've made, the loves you've lost, the music you've listened to.” In other words, he's telling you it's a kind of an outer manifestation of your inner soul. And that's kind of what I try and do. I just take the camera along for a ride, but I'm just looking at places as beautiful as this. It's how you interpret them, how the camera interprets them.
When I was here not too long ago, before COVID was the first time I got wind of how bad the wildfires were in Australia. I decided that I shouldn't be photographing bison in the winter in Idaho and Wyoming. I should be relevant, and I should go straight down to New South Wales. On the way down there, I caught up with a few Aussie mates and they said the place you should go is Kangaroo Island, which is south of Adelaide. They have the one six-star resort I think in Australia on Kangaroo Island. And when I arrived there, that's what I found. I was the first cameraman to go behind what was effectively army lines because the Australians weren't allowing people into the west side of the island. I probably saw about 10,000 dead animals before I saw the first live one. The first live one I saw was this koala. And with the help of Australians who are great in a crisis, we raised a significant amount of money for what's called the Koala Comeback Campaign. I haven't got enough time to talk about things such as global warming. It's fairly evident that looking at Southern Europe now and looking at parts of California and China, that it is for real.
My only comment that I'd make is it's not a straight line. And we all know parts of America that had very tough Christmases and winters in terms of the temperature and the length of the winter. I just think from our own experiences around the world, it fluctuates. The volatility is much more pronounced than the actual linear bottom left to top right. But there's no doubt it is here.
As Willy kindly said: my career started with Maradona, and when he passed away two or three years ago, I shed a tear because I think that picture did have a meaningful impact on my life. I think I wouldn't be here now if I hadn't taken the picture. I've always had a fondness for Argentinians because the two lenses that Willy mentioned that I left in the net were still there when I came back and there were 10,000 Argentinian fans on the pitch at the final whistle, that would never happen again. But the fact that the cameras were still there, they weren't interested in stealing anything. They were celebrating such a joyous day for them as a nation.
My hero is Steven Spielberg. I'm sure I'm not alone in this room. I think he's the storyteller of our generation, perhaps the previous generation, perhaps the next generation. I asked my kids why Taylor Swift is the most relevant female artist in the world, maybe an artist in the world. And they say, “Dad, it's because she tells stories,” in the same way that Spielberg tells stories. And in my own humble way, how I try to tell stories.
I think our favorite films are the ones we've watched the most. I watched The Wedding Crashers for the 18th time on the flight over here, I feel like a delegate crasher actually right now. But Jaws, I've watched an awful lot. I got obsessed with great white sharks. I'd spent some 30 hours in the water in False Bay near Cape Town, and I was just about to give up. My friends just said, "Why don't you just go and see a therapist? Why are you spending all this time trying to capture this picture that no one's got before?" Success is 99% failure. And the one thing that I always tell people that I've looked at the ups and downs of my career and the bit of fortune I've had the last 15 is that you have bumps on the way but never quit. And when I took that picture, I had no one to celebrate with.
I went back to a little fishing village called Simon's Town, and I looked at all my screen and it was pin sharp, and it went round the world. And then a bit like you were saying earlier on, I got my check back. My check then I think was for about $15,000, and I worked out that it cost me $28,000 to take the picture. So, what an awful business model this is. This is 2009. Then a lawyer from Houston, Texas, called me up and he said, “Are you the kid that took the photograph of the shark?” And I said, I think I might be. He said, “Well, I'm an attorney called Jaws, and I like one of those in my office. I want to put the fear of God into anyone that's going to take me on.” So, he said, “How much for the picture?” And I didn't really know what to say because it wasn't the way in 2009 that you monetized your craft as a photographer. So, I said maybe $7,000 will make it the size of half a pool table. And he went: “$7,000?” So, I obviously thought I'd gone way too high. So, I said, we’ll deliver it for free. And he went, “No, we're going to get five of those shark.” And that was my epiphany. That was my moment when I realized that photography at the time when everyone is a photographer was changing and the way to monetize it was to go down the fine arts route of trying to take five or six strong pictures a year and make sure the supply of those pictures was very, very tight.
I wrote a paper, a bit like Jerry Maguire wrote that paper before he got fired and put it in everyone's cubbyhole about how photography was going to change. And I've got an awful lot wrong in my life, but that was one thing that I got right, that people like Getty Images are effectively broke because they're saddled with too much debt. And secondly, because the same rules of supply and demand pertain to photography as they do to your industry.
And right now, everyone is a photographer. At the time, the magazine industry, the advertising industry was under so much pressure. But I had to ask what comes first, the chicken or the egg? I needed some big pictures other than a shark picture.
In 2014, I went to South Sudan. It was a civil war going on there. The world's news country is a tough place. And I knew there was an image, I had an image in mind, to borrow from Ansel Adams again, I make pictures rather than take pictures.
I saw something that was biblical up in the big cattle camps. If I could have raised the elevation, it's very flat on the Nile and I needed to take a ladder all the way out of South Sudan and then cross the Nile with these crocodiles with the ladder. But I got this picture, and I think in many ways it was called Mankind. It went from me being on the periphery of the art market to someone that art dealers around the world felt that there might be an opportunity cost if they didn't even consider a relationship.
Mark Twain uses the line about the two most important days in a man's/woman's life, it’s the day they're born and the day they find out why. I think that on the 29th of December 2014 was the day I knew what I was set up to do.
I spent quite a bit of time documenting the natural world. I have had my moments. We work with very good people on the ground. That was the world's biggest elephant at the time. Those are the world's two biggest elephants, Tim, and Craig. They don't know they're called Tim and Craig. Tim's past one in the middle, but the one on the right is Craig. He's 51 years old and they're called Big Tuskers, where they're kind of half-elephant, half-mammoth. When you see one for the first time, it really is a spine-tingling moment. I don't want to get involved in too many of these discussions in the next hour, but I think an awful lot of environmentalists are wrong in terms of our generation and what we are doing with the planet and the protection of the planet. I think this could well be a generation in terms of Africa that is defined by what they're getting right in the planet. And where this picture was taken, there hasn't been an elephant poached for seven years. There is a lot of good news that I see in the natural world that doesn't get reported because bad news sells much better than good news.
(In photo) The lion is under pressure. It's the animal I guess I've got the strongest track record of photographing and it's an iterative process. The more you get it wrong, you learn how to eventually get it right. A hundred years ago there were about a hundred thousand lions left in the world and there’s now about 14,000. The reason for that decline is one simple thing: population growth. Population growth in Africa specifically. You don't hear that too much because people that take a stage like I am today. If they talk about population growth, it could be seen to be implicitly anti-Muslim. It could be seen to be implicitly racist. They prefer to talk about climate change as an easier way out. But the reality is that the lion and the elephant – the biggest threat for them is Africa. Kenya's population is growing by 4,000 a day.
(In photo) If you haven't been up to see the gorillas, you should. It's in Rwanda. It costs $1,500. But that's the same as an espresso martini in Aspen. So, you can just avoid getting to Aspen and go to Rwanda for the day. You will meet them. It's a good trek up, but it's a bucket shop thing to do.
(In photo) I'm often asked when do you get a sort of excitement in your job in terms of encounters with animals? I'd say tigers because they're dangerous and they will kill you. (And there's not so many of them) and then polar bears. That picture, to me, it's interpretive. It can mean so many things to different people. It could be a message of solidarity, the extraordinary biodiversity of our planet. It could be a Nike advert to some people.
But to work with polar bears in the north, and the polar bear population, by the way, is fairly static versus the lion population because they're not idiots and they understand that the world is changing. So, they just move to areas where they can live a comfortable existence. But unfortunately, that leads to more human polar bear encounters.
(In photo) This picture has done quite well because it reminds some wives of what they wake up to every morning and then they give that to the husbands and also occasionally husbands give it to their wives for the same reason. We call it Grumpy Monkey, taken in Nagano, Japan.
I've had a couple of moments where I have nearly lost my life. The biggest one was when I was photographing killer whales in Siberia. (In photo) I was in a raft. It is so cold. Reason to be in the raft was so I could be right at waters level and be looking up at these orcas. And it was pretty about -15 degrees, and I wasn't wearing a wetsuit. I was trying to get back to the main boat, and I put my knees in the wrong part of the raft. The raft tipped and hit me on the head. And I went down with my cameras in the Arctic Siberian Ocean. They reckon you got about two minutes in those circumstances. So, I got hypothermia. I was taken to the hospital.
I asked Willy if I could say anything in front of this crowd, and he said, “Yes, say whatever you want.” So, when I went to the hospital my genitals had disappeared inside my body. And I identify as a man from Scotland so obviously it didn't sit comfortably with me for a few days, but that is the picture I got. That's how you want to photograph orcas. You want to be close and immersive and be looking up at them.
(In photo) Bears, which I love photographing. From here I go to Alaska, which I think is the most unhinged part of America. What makes Alaska so special is not just the countryside, which is wild, but the people that are even wilder. Kind of unrefined from every perspective is some. They're parodies of themselves, but we go up to a place called Iliamna. (By the way, if anyone wants to come and talk to me about where I take the pictures, please do. I'll be knocking around.) I think your emblematic animal, however, is a bison. And I photographed this on Ted Turner's ranch in Montana two years ago. You don't want to try that at home because to me, they are everything that's emblematic of your country in terms of the fortitude, the resolve that survived two Ice Ages. And I want to photograph them in the cold weather because it's the cold weather that defines them.
(In photo) So those are Mustang horses, your wild horses that are gained under enormous amounts of pressure. I work with the lady - some of you'll all remember some of your husbands, Madeleine Boone Pickens. She was married to Boone Pickens and Paulson beforehand. She's taken it upon herself to really be the person that protects the Mustang in America.
(In photo) I went down to visit a ranch, which is enormous in Nevada in the winter, and I didn't think we'd get a chance. Then we saw what was happening in that previous video just randomly. We had no expectation that that was going to happen. And I got my one moment with the Mustang coming right towards me.
The problem with wildlife photography is it's not necessarily art. It's a little bit too literal. Just because I do it, it means that a lot of other people can do the same thing. They can copy. They can go where I'm going.
(In photos) These pictures here with the one on the left looks like it could be a stand of the British Open next week, except there are no trees in Hoylake. The other one's photographing leopards up in the Himalayas. But as soon as you see other people with a camera, it's crowded long to go back to my previous job. It's like buying Apple on 22 times. What's the upside? Where's the skill in that? I want to be on my own and I spend less and less time in the natural world.
The journey is what matters. As my fellow Scot, Robert Louis Stevenson said, “It is a journey.” I don't know what I'm going to be photographing in two years’ time, but it's going to be relevant, and I've got to have a buzz when I get up in the morning to do it.
(In photo) So I took this picture in Montana and in a village called Virginia City, which is a ghost town near a place called Ennis in western Montana. I went in there to warm up. It was so cold, and we'd been filming with wolves from the sanctuary. And I went into this bar, and I thought, this is the best quintessential American saloon I've ever been into. And I said to the bar manager, who's with me up there in the tall seats, I said, can I bring a wolf into the bar? And he said, “Yeah, we have wolves here the whole time.” And that picture, for whatever reason, elicited more interest. There's so many of the pictures that I showed you before because, there's an authenticity to it that hadn't seen before. And if people have a bar like I'm sure many of you do at home, you want to put a badass picture in a bar. You don't want pictures of lavender growing in Provence. What's the relevance of that in your bar?
(In photo) So this came by accident and it's the random walk of life in 2015, and it changed the way that we went about our work. There's a picture there of Cindy. The great thing about working on time is you don't have to hire extras. You just find them in the bars. The guy on the right with the gun, there was a stage where he was standing next to Cindy and he needed to go to the loo, but he had to weigh up whether if he went to the loo, he might lose his place next to Cindy. So, I just saw this wet patch forming and he just saw that I'm not losing my position. I'll just pee in my pants. That's Montana.
We love telling stories of the Wild West, Taylor Sheridan's has caught on to that it is the greatest story ever told. And it's the story of human endeavor and fortitude. And it's character rich and landscape rich. So, we spend a lot of time doing our own anthology into the Wild West, where we've been helped enormously in some ways by COVID.
COVID did two things for the art market in my eyes. Number one, people couldn't go abroad, so they would do up their houses. The art market had a reasonable COVID. But far more importantly, in your country, we've seen massive movements of wealth away from the seaboards into places like Sun Valley, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. And in these places new homes are being built. There's fairly easy planning permission for the places, and these homes need to have art in them. So, I look back to six or seven years ago and the idea that places like Big Sky, Montana would be a bigger market for us than Paris, Milan, or Miami, we would have laughed at people and said that. But that's the reality of what's happened in terms of the permanent movement of wealth. And I'm sure you've seen it in your jobs. I'm staggered when I go to places, some of the resorts in Colorado, here or specifically in Montana, just mounds of wealth that have moved there never to return. And I sympathize with them. If I had a choice between living somewhere like here or San Francisco, I think I know what my choice would be.
We started to work more and more with telling stories with animals and celebs, when Cindy (Crawford) and I got to know each other through her work with the University of Wisconsin, where her brother sadly passed away from cancer at an early age. Their pediatric cancer care unit is really groundbreaking in America. So, what she said to me is she said, “Well, listen, I'll work with you, and I won't charge you anything.” And this is a girl whose day-to-day rate is $300,000, quite rightly, but we’ll split the profits.” And the model has kind of worked. The last picture you saw, that raised over $1.5M for the hospital. It's great when I see my kids up there to Wisconsin, to Madison. It's humbling and it gives perspective. She's an American gem. I'll come on to that. Just being beautiful inside is far more important.
Cara Delevingne is a British model. Some of you may know. She's authentic, which is important. In the art world it's important to be authentic. There's only one Cara Delevingne and we did this campaign and that was real. (In photo) That lion was right behind her. And we were working with a guy called The Lion Whisperer in South Africa. If he wasn't there, there would be a bit of a problem. So, I work with her. (In photo) I'm sure some of you have had a few drinks in the Jerome Bar in Aspen over the years. It's a good crew if you want to go with a Scottish drinking companion, Gerard Butleri, s not a bad start. Except he can drink me under the table.
(In photo) Roxana Redfoot’s up here somewhere at the top. That's for real as well. But the bear isn't actually looking at Roxana, the rabbit on the left-hand side of the bar and very transfixed by it.
(In photo) This is all up in Yellowstone, the old ranch where Philip Morris used to take people in the old days, which is now part of the whole group that have got the Yellowstone Club.
(In photo) When I have pictures like this, I want to have extreme characters. It's a bit like the Coen brothers amplifying everything. If you want a Grizzly Mountain man, make sure it's the very best grizzly Mountain man that you can find. If you want the polar extreme to that, (if any of your baseball fans) that is Jose Canseco’s daughter, Josie.
(In photo) I think if I try to find the most enduring symbols of Americana as an outsider to your fabulous country, I struggle to think of a more enduring symbol than the cowboy. That picture there, I think the anonymity helps the picture. It's not about him. It's about the genre that the picture represents. That was shot where, again, if anyone's the Coen brothers scholar, that was the opening scene in No Country for Old Men, in West Texas.
I said I wasn’t going to get political. I'm going to say one thing. All the stuff that's going on with the woke and cancel culture, to me there's a lot of nut stuff and if you think you've got it bad here in America you should spend time in London where these idiots think they can change the oil market just by stopping traffic every day and throwing confetti at Wimbledon, whatever. The idea that you take a Native American chief, and this is sitting Bull's great, great grandson and put him in front of Devil's Tower, that somehow or other that is patronizing or appropriation, I think that's just nonsense. The most important thing is: What does he think and what does he permit and what does his family think? When I showed him that picture and all the dignity and grace is conveyed by his face, he cried. And now he's got it in his house. He’s sadly passed recently. But to me, that's the important thing. So, I think when you get these accusations, throwing around that the picture like that is in any way patronizing or misappropriation, I don't think it is. I think it's a celebration of their culture. But the barometer of that is always: What do they think? What does the protagonist think?
(“The Wolf of Wall Street” photo) So I got to meet Jordan Belfort about six years ago. He's changed an awful lot from the movie, and he has cleaned his act up a little bit. (Martin) Scorsese never met him because he knew he'd hate him, and he wanted to have something that was likable within him for the movie. Leonardo (DiCaprio) met him many times and he had to actually water down parts of Jordan's behavior.
There were quite a few stories, which I can tell you people later. I think my favorite one with Jordan was that we took this picture, and I got Scorsese to sign it and DiCaprio to sign it, and we thought we would raise money for charity. At Art Miami, it sold for $200,000. But I needed Jordan to be in Art Miami for the photo shoot with everyone else. We hadn’t discussed terms because he owns the rights to the Wolf of Wall Street. So, I said, I'll tell you what, it's Art Miami. And if any of you have been there during that week, you know what I'm talking about. It's a bit of a zoo. I'll put you up in a suite and then we'll just call it evens. That was a big mistake, I think. The bill was $71,000. So, he hasn't changed.
So, after we did that shot, I thought to myself, this is the iconic little clip within the movie. You said, I can play that. The hardest thing about that picture, which all that happened was the helicopter that was taken just off the coast of Los Angeles. The FBI guys, we got the jackets, which I think helps the story. I'm trying to include everything in that one moment. And that's what you have to do in a single image, is you have to have so many layers. You can tell a story in one single image. We got stick because people said, you're being cruel to the lobsters. The lobsters were dead anyway. We bought them from a seafood restaurant. They were going to be eaten by someone anyway. So that was a fun thing to do. Jordan now I would just do the reverse of whatever he suggests in financial markets. And when he was piling into these chimpanzees and NFT things, I had no idea what he's doing. I think I was right on top of that NFT market, which we'd never touched.
When I think of your country and the opportunity it gives for outsiders like myself and so many Europeans, I try and retrospectively look back and see what you've got that other countries don't have. And you have the greatest geographical mobility of any country in the world. The number of conversations I hear about just between people at this conference saying, “Oh, well, my kids, he was in Dallas, but he's moved to Seattle. Oh, no, they're going to Nashville. And then I think they're going down to Phoenix.” We don't have that in Europe. It's either London or you could have a problem. You don't want to be in Manchester really for too long. Your highway system and the rollout of your road network – I think is integral to the American dream.
We thought we had to play a little bit on that theme as a tribute to the American dream and American mobility. (In photos) That's in a place that's obviously Winslow, Arizona, and that's not too far from there as well. Holbrook don't go there in a hurry. I think one of the great stretches of road in America is Sunset Boulevard towards Chateau Marmont looking west. There's massive billboards, and we wanted to kind of play a 1975 theme. So, we got the Elton billboard from the Dodgers game. Of course, the shadow hasn't changed. And then the Jaws poster and I got Cindy to be a hipster, which she plays so, so well. And I think I want to tell fun stories, good stories, I want to make people smile. Not look at a picture and say how miserable the world is, because I think this is a fairly good world.
(Video of 1992 Pepsi Ad with Cindy Crawford) Of course, of all the Cindy adverts she's been involved in. There was the one defining moment of, I think, her modeling career from a film perspective. And I still think that this advert, which played the Super Bowl halftime in 1993 I think is probably the greatest advert of all time.
We went back to the same gas station; this was last year. She hasn't changed at all. The gas station hasn't changed. And we use wolves as an allegory to the young boys, because we didn't have a single shot, particularly in 2023. We could put young kids in that picture. But we thought the wolves worked well as a substitute. And that picture is, again, I think, raised over $2 million for the hospital. If anyone's interested in these pictures, particularly the charitable ones, Cindy does sign them and just come and talk to me about it.
(In photos) That was all filmed at about 48, 49 degrees. That's well, it's not 170 miles from Vegas, but it's near enough. But in the desert, around Joshua Tree National Park. There's so much scope for a filmmaker there. It's like Hitchcockian in terms of North by Northwest. That actually did happen. There's a lot of faith in the pilot in that picture.
So, golf and sports is something in many ways my career has come back full circle. Sports photography doesn't sell as art because it's literal. There'll be pictures taken of the extraordinary tennis game in London on Sunday. But there are photojournalists in pictures and they’re not necessarily art pictures. What we've tried to do is take the sports stars you're so familiar with and then almost take them out of their comfort zone and in so doing, slightly demystify them.
(In “The Golf Champions” photo) So we started working in Augusta, which is not the easiest body to go to work with. But luckily, I've got to know Gary fairly well. And Jack, that was actually the last picture of Arnold Palmer alive. It was as you can see how frail he looked on that particular day. I remember the first time that I worked with Gary (Player) at Augusta in 2016 and the night before he played with Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus, he said, “David, if I do anything special, don't miss it.” I couldn't let him down because he was my host as much as anything else. I remember needing to the loo on the seventh. I know the call wasn't so urgent, but I thought it was a good opportunity. And behind the seventh was a bit of a hill up to the bathroom. As I was walking up to the bathroom hence, elevating my position, the noise in the crowd got bigger and bigger. I turned around with my camera and I saw Gary's tee shot moving from about 35 feet from the hole closer and closer down the hill.
Lucky enough, I got the picture. It was pure. It was luck. I was on the way to the bathroom, but I couldn't let Gary down. He's a born entertainer, and he's been a paragon for sports professionals for many, many years. It's an honor to call him a friend. And as we've got to know each other better, I put to him the concept of doing something special for the 150th anniversary of the British Open, which, of course, is being held at the home of golf in St. Andrews.
(Voice over from video) This epic journey began with a small step. A spark of inspiration. A leap of faith.
The dreamers, the few who defied the norm and blazed the trail for many to follow.
There would be no barriers. No exclusions, no exceptions. This journey would be open to all.
Every era. Every champion. Every hero. Every victory. Every character-building defeat. Every cherished moment. Every one of them has left a footprint on this great journey.
It is the original, the root of all we know – every word, every anecdote.
Every tale told - a story to inspire all. Nothing compares. No equal exists.
Every memory, every day in the sun has steered us to this moment.
The approach to the 18th with the time and the golf course coalescing in happy unity as they have for 400 years has a sensory overload that beats Glen Cove, that beats any kind of Braveheart scene in Scotland. It is the home of Golf.
David Yarrow: I'm sure many of you have been to St. Andrews. It's probably the one part of my home country that Americans would easily recognize. It's not like they're going to get to a place in Glasgow and say that's definitely Glasgow. But that view in St. Andrews, I think it's known the world over. I want to see people say, No, no, no, but you got them playing the hole the wrong way round. No, because 150 years ago they played it the other way round. So that's what gave me the right to have the Gary Player facing away from the clubhouse and the R&A. And that's now actually in the R&A.
I photographed Jack with Gary at the Bear Club in Jupiter (FL) not too long ago, and I'd find a dive bar nearby that I wanted to take him to. But it takes a while to kind of win the great man over, and I think we're kind of getting there. But he said, No, no, no, we just want to shoot in the locker room. And the locker room at his club doesn't give you much potential as an artist. So, we actually had to turn it into a dive bar, which I think the members actually quite appreciated for a day or so.
I think of all the sports stars I've worked with over the last 12 to 18 months, I think Joe Mac's probably the most intimidating, but probably that doesn't surprise you either. He's a bright man. He loves his music. He identifies as a musician as much now as he does a tennis player. And I persuaded him, he wanted us to build the sets. He had no control over it. And I thought that the second game, the second match with Borg. For those that follow tennis, you remember the Borg never played another. He walked off, missed the press conference, and that was it. He never did it. He was only, I think, what was it, 25 that time. And he never played another major again since McEnroe beat him in that match.
So, it was the time that they were all quite bad boys, maybe not Borg. I tried with John a little bit on the tube in Manhattan to get him going. I said, Come on, tell me what it was like with Vitas Gerulaitis and all that in 1981, he said, “Well, he said all this talk about performance enhancing drugs in athletics in 2022-2023, we took performance de-enhancing drugs.” It's the old story: Vitas Gerulaitis used to take him to Studio 54, straight from tennis, and that's where they hung out until three in the morning.
When I'm trying to build a story, I'm greedy. I want so many different layers, which is what I thought I’d put Village People in. Not how Village People as how they look now, because that wasn't going to work - but the Village People of how they did look in 1981. If you live in Manhattan, that's the oldest Irish bar, McSorley's on the east side, in the east village where Scorsese actually did his press conferences for the Gangs of New York in that bar because it's built in 1854, and nothing's changed at all from the bar. Behind the bar there are chicken wings, chicken bones. The chicken bones were from American soldiers going to the war in 1917. And the ones that didn't come back, their chicken bones still hang there on the wire at McSorley's. He doesn't like this picture because he thinks he looks old. But I said, you don’t, you look badass. And I watched him at Wimbledon on Sunday. I think he looks much better there than in the pictures at Wimbledon.
We've been working with skiers recently, and I'm sure there are a lot of skiers in the room. Norway is going through some heady days in sport. They've got a tremendous golfer. They've got the fourth best tennis player in the world. They've got by far and away the best footballer in the world right now. Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, the best men's downhill skier in the world.
So, I thought we'd pay homage to Norway's heritage in polar exploration. Again, it’s not hard to find people in Norway. It's a bit like finding the drunks in Montana. But we thought Aleksander dates a proper American superstar. So, I tried to persuade him in his summer treading on the glaciers in Norway to bring along someone. I think you all know who this is, Mikaela Shiffrin, she's a real rock star and delightful company. And again, to go a little bit out of her comfort zone. But I know how much she's revered by the skiing community in America. And certainly, from my perspective of working with her, she's totally delightful.
I went back to Dallas a couple of weeks ago. Troy wanted to do this thing with Roger (Staubach) that I think any Cowboys fans here they would certainly acknowledge that they're the two most famous quarterbacks in the franchise's history, and it was a great honor to do that. Again, Roger is a delightful family man.
I want to finish with a couple of little things that we did this in San Maritz, which is the kind of smartest European ski resort. And in some races where British people refuse to give up and grow old. They go through a midlife crisis, and they do strange things like bobsleigh and curling and play cricket on the ice. And they do this thing called, you know, the luge. (Shows video)
So, in San Maritz, they have this thing called the Cresta Run. You might have seen pictures already. Some of you might have been mad enough to go down it. It's a very British thing. It's like Downton Abbey on ice. And I thought what we would do is to have a layer. It wasn't enough for me just to photograph the Cresta Run. So, I thought we'd get one of Europe's leading fashion models in the foreground and then have the Cresta Run in the background. What I haven't really thought about was these seasoned Cresta riders who've been doing this year after year after year have never seen anything out of their left eye. So, I hadn't really properly figured it out of my own mind about what could possibly go wrong. And this is what went wrong. (Shows video)
So, the moral of that story is (several morals,) and that's the beginning of the Cresta Run.
Coming full circle, given the previous guest, it's been an honor to get to know George W. Bush, who's spends a lot of his time painting now and he invited me to SMU, really to talk about art, and he couldn't have been a more congenial company. It's very humbling and a great honor.
My new book’s out, I've got about 60 of them here. And I know there's far more delegates than 60. So, Wimbledon finished last week. I've got about 60 books to give out. Don't shout out. But if anyone could tell me who the tennis player is in this picture, quietly come up to me and I'll give you a book. And I'm sure there are lots of other books to go around. Just come. Come and talk to me. Don't shout out now.
But I think the great thing about tennis, it's about unity. So, you get emotion in the player that is matched by the spectators. I don't know any other sports where it happens with such intensity as it does in tennis. So, when someone's celebrating a point, their emotion can be matched by absolutely everyone behind, which is what I think that that picture conveys.
I don't know whether we've got time for questions. I just want to say one final quick thing, other than to thank Willy, for the invitation. I know you look introspectively at your country and maybe sometimes you have a disposition that says we got all these problems and all this in-fighting, all that I'd say as an outsider and as a Brit coming over here, where we spend nine months out of the year – is it's your country more than any other country in the world that allows artists to fulfill their dreams. I can't think of a country that comes close to America in terms of positivity, collaboration, believing in other people, helping other people. Today, being a case in point. So, when you're having your down moments, do know that whilst there are problems you still have by far and away the best country in the world. Thank you very, very much.