After a lifetime spent working as a commercial photographer, Paul Bussell's passion for animals has taken his focus in an entirely different direction. While researching into big cats, the photographer, who lives in Strawberry Hill, discovered the Santago Rare Leopard Project run by Peter James. Now he has brought together a unique collection of photographs which contain rare images of snow leopard families, as well as photographs of clouded leopards, Persian and African leopards and panthers, which he will exhibit at Twickenham library from February 12 - March 4, 2008.
"Whereas with people you have to deal with their vanities, the skill with photographing animals is completely different - you've seen the image you want and you have to wait for that something special," he says.
Paul's first mainstream animal photo shoots took place in the eighties after he gained a reputation as an animal expert. An award winning image of a horse followed, and he attracted attention with a series of images featuring his Abyssinian cat, Spike, photographed looking longingly at a goldfish bowl - an image copied constantly ever since
Consistently working with animals gave him the most satisfaction. "Lots of animals would come to various studios and although all were well looked after - the RSPCA were often on hand - I always felt sorry about them being there. Now is my chance to re-dress the balance.
"I absolutely love cats, the way they look at you, their great thick paws and huge claws, the way they walk, the way they sit. In full flow, they stretch with such wonderful grace and have so much expression."
Recently involved in the Wildlife Heritage Foundation, working with Mark Edgerley and his dedicated team, Paul has added lions and tigers to his portfolio as well as two of the finest amur leopards
"I've worked with cheetahs and panthers, you know they could kill you and it gives them this huge power - they are totally beautiful but you must never forget how dangerous they are.
"I photographed a snow leopard once which came towards me placidly. My lens was just inches away, it was getting closer and closer then it just went wild within seconds. For the sake of a bit of wire or someone on hand to keep them at bay, you know they could eat you alive."
The exhibition of Paul's wildlife photography is at Twickenham Library from February 12th until March 4th
Time is running out for the bigs cats. We can all help save them.