Clare James is a talented photojournalist based in Cornwall, UK.  Her work has taken her to various destinations, but always with one subject at its core – environmental preservation and wildlife conservation.  Through her work in the fields of photojournalism and videography, Clare aims to draw awareness to global environmental issues.  She is currently part of a team working on an invaluable project “The Boots on the Ground” which tells the stories of the game rangers in Africa, the people on the ground striving to overcome the current poaching crisis.  Closer to home, Clare is also working with the Cornwall Wildlife Trust on a project aiming to reintroduce beavers into the Cornish waterways to naturally improve the local ecosystems and reduce flooding risk. This is her story: 

"From a young age I was inspired by the outdoors, nature and particularly the ocean.  It was always my dream to become a Marine Biologist. However, I realised that the amount of Chemistry, Maths and time spent in the lab were not for me.  I decided to study a degree less lab-oriented, a BSc at Exeter University in Physical Geography, focusing on oceans atmosphere, climate systems and modelling, energy policy and sustainable development, with the aim of getting into the conservation world through the back door.  

Whilst studying down in Cornwall I fell in love with surfing and my affinity for the ocean grew.  I completed a marine mammal rescue course, and learnt to scuba diveand actively monitor marine life through on-site research.  I began to document my findings, and realised the importance of using numerous media forms, photography, film and writing to draw people’s attention, raising awareness and in turn inspiring others to protect our beautiful planet.

This path led me to Mexico where I worked in Xcalac Marine Park, located on the Yucatan Peninsula at the Mexico, Belize border. I was working for the local dive shop XTC as a dive guide and underwater photographer. I also spent my time working with local communities, schools, scientists and NGOs raising awareness of marine issues, collecting data, and organising beach cleans and coral-gardening (taking damaged corals and replanting them in an area in which they can grow and establish into a healthy coral colony) - a mind-blowing experience.

Following my time in Mexico, I was offered a job in South Africa, working as a dive instructor and teaching wildlife, underwater and adventure sports photography. Living out in SA I became acutely aware of the current poaching crisis affecting East, West and Southern Africa.  Whilst working for Africa Media I met journalist Angie Raab.  We spent a month traveling the Garden Route together, living on the road and sharing numerous adventures which drew us close. We covered numerous stories, and through our work and from talking to people within the game reserves and those we were workng with, we realised the scale of the poaching issue. One thing led to another and a few months after meeting, Angie and I embarked on our first job together raising awareness for Sibuya’s Anti-Poaching Unit. This led to further investigations and the story has snowballed from there. I decided to join Angie on an incredible journey following “The Boots on The Ground” - the rangers on the front line who dedicate their lives to the protection of Africa’s wildlife.  By documenting the work of “The Boots” we hope to raise awareness and support for the front line rangers, who are faced with an enormous, complex and often dangerous task.  

Closer to home, I have been fortunate to work alongside the Cornwall Wildlife Trust documenting the release of beavers into the Cornish waterways.  The Cornwall Beaver Project is part of a wider movement trying to reintroduce beavers into the UK.  The aim is to demonstrate to local communities and regional governments that beavers can greatly help to improve our natural ecosystems, cleanse our waterways and crucially reduce flooding - but most importantly this is a natural process.  This will save money on hard flood defences, and has many positive benefits both environmentally and sociologically.

I thoroughly enjoy and find purpose in working on conservation projects, both marine and land-based, as long as I am making a positive difference.  I relish the entire production process be it filming, editing, storyboard creation. It is a privilege to be able to contribute the skills I have to the protection of the natural world.

As an ocean addict, I have realised how important it is for me to be able to get in the sea.  Surfing is my escape from the harsh reality of the world and it relaxes me and dramatically enhances my creativity.  After an ocean season I become much more productive.

Deepa Shah