Many people ask Bob Poole if he ever fears for his life while filming wildlife.
“Animals are way less dangerous than people in my opinion,” Poole said. “You can end up in situations in Africa that are dangerous ... and it’s rarely because of wild animals.”
He believes animals and humans have similar motivations.
“We all want to survive, and we want our children to survive,” Poole said. “We learn how to mitigate danger. Animals learn to trust me. I learn to trust animals. But it takes time. You really have to know them. Just like they have to know us.”
Emmy-winning cinematographer and Ketchum resident Bob Poole will speak at The Argyros as a part of the center’s National Geographic Live Speaker series Friday, Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. Tickets range $20-$80. Ronan Donovan will speak Saturday night.
During his event, Poole will use clips from his vast career to illustrate the story of how he ended up at Gorongosa in Mozambique, one of the greatest national parks in all of Africa, for eight years. Years of civil war had destroyed it. Most of the big animals were gone, but the ecosystem was still intact. Fellow Ketchum resident Greg Carr started a 20-year restoration process to bring the wildlife back in partnership with the government there.
He will discuss a challenging group of elephants who didn’t get along with people.
“Elephants are particularly interesting because they’re so intelligent, and they’re so much like us in the way they regard family,” Poole said.
As I spoke to him at a table outside Hailey Coffee Company, his silver mop of hair rustled in the overcast August wind. When he answered questions, he stared off into the horizon, brow furrowed, searching through his memories.
Growing up in Africa, his parents were conservationists. Aside from college, he has returned to the continent every year of his life. One of his first memories is the image of lions in Kenya illuminated by headlights, undisturbed as grass burned around them.
“I was always fascinated with crocodiles, elephants, lions,” Poole said. “Of course when I was a kid, there was a lot of them. It seemed like they were everywhere. That’s changed a lot in my lifetime.”
He started working as a cameraman for National Geographic when he was still in his teens.
“In order to film these things properly, you have to first understand their behavior and what it is they do, and then you have to figure out how to film it,” Poole said. “Sometimes that’s easy. Sometimes that’s really difficult.”
Eventually, he got in front of a camera.
“I just found it very easy to do, to explain what was happening,” Poole said. “When the camera pointed at me, it never worried me in any way. It was a chance for me to tell things the way I wanted to.”
He has spent a lot of time with scientists who have a hard time getting their points across. Poole can explain complex topics in an interesting way that gets people to care.
Filming desert Elephants in Mali and antelopes in South Sudan got him an Emmy.
“You can get an Emmy for pretty much anything,” Poole said. “[But] The one I got recognized for was something I was very, very proud of. The work was singularly, incredibly hard, and I somehow managed to pull it off.”
However, he is most proud of the fact he’s been able to thrive over decades in an industry that seems to change by the minute.
“I’ve had a long career, and I’ve been successful all the way through it,” Poole said. “It’s been a matter of morphing from one thing into another.”
He has worked in aerials, lighting, handheld shoulder work, steadicam and more. But, eventually, he found his way back to his one true love: filming wildlife in Africa.
He first came to Ketchum years ago to film wolves.
“I was stuck. I had found my place,” Poole said. “This place suits me well.”
Before he took this talk on the road, he did a free show in the Wood River Valley for practice. Since then, he has performed this talk all over the world for thousands of people.
“To come back home and do it again in front of a very small, intimate audience" ... I think it’s going to be really cool.”
Although he has a couple ideas rolling around, he has no concrete plans for his next project, which is unusual for him. Right now, he wants to focus on building a cabin. ￼