Xposure: Rick Smolan regales audience with his adventures

March 05, 2024 / 3:22 PM
Sharjah24: “My whole life is a bizarre series of twists and turns,” declared American photojournalist Rick Smolan as he gave a delightful account of his life and career in a talk titled Against all Odds on Monday, March 4, at the Xposure International Photography Festival in Sharjah.
Smolan’s hour-long narrative about his rollercoaster ride through life as a photographer for Time, Life, and National Geographic, the luck that fetched him his first assignment for Life or being at the right place and time to capture photographs of music conductor Sarah Caldwell for Time’s cover in 1975 or a week-long tour in 1976 with boxing great Muhammad Ali in Korea.

But Smolan’s most famous adventure was as the photographer of ‘camel lady’ Robyn Davidson, a 26-year-old woman who went on a 1,700-mile, nine-month solo camel trek across the treacherous Australian Outback in 1977. With Smolan, then 27, arranging the funding from National Geographic, the magazine entrusted him with the task of covering her journey from Alice Springs in Western Australia through the Gibson Desert to the Indian Ocean on the east coast. 

In true Smolan humour, the New York Times bestselling author and photojournalist with over five million books in print narrated how they developed an amiable working relationship, the mishaps involving the camels on the way, Robyn’s incredible dog Diggity that could run 40 miles a day, meeting the aborigines and learning their language. Braving outback flies, wild camels and the Outback, where it rained only every 10 years, Robyn Davidson’s adventure became a National Geographic cover story, a book named Tracks, and a movie starring Mia Wasikwoska and Adam Driver as Robyn and Smolan respectively.

Smolan, who created the “Day in the Life” books, is the CEO of Against All Odds Productions which pioneered the field of interactive publishing, producing the photography books and associated CD-ROMs including From Alice to Ocean, one of the first CD-ROMs to be targeted for a consumer market; Passage to Vietnam, hailed by the Chicago Sun-Times as “the best CD-ROM ever produced” and 24 Hours in Cyberspace, a chronicle of the largest one-day online event to date.

Smolan also narrated the endearing story of Natasha, an Amerasian orphan who was adopted by Smolan’s friend Keane after a few hurdles in 1978. Like other children born to American soldiers when they were stationed in Vietnam, Korea and Philippines, she had found her life in a limbo after the death of her grandmother. Smolan ended his interesting and fast-paced story with photos of a happily married Natasha in the US.

The 8th and biggest edition of Xposure, happening in Expo Centre Sharjah, concludes on March 5. 
March 05, 2024 / 3:22 PM

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