Robert Ian Martin Campbell
A renowned natural history cameraman and photographer, Bob Campbell was born in England in 1930 and raised in Kitale, Kenya. Although Bob had an early interest in photography, it wasn’t until he met Des Bartlett in 1961 that he had the opportunity to pursue it as a career.
Des encouraged Bob to use his equipment and darkroom, and whilst working on Operation Noah, Des sent copious amounts of film for Bob to develop. Upon viewing the results, he offered Bob a job with Armand Denis Productions, processing film and running his stills projects. Bob eagerly left his job as a Jaguar mechanic and together the Campbells went on safari with the Bartletts, touring Eastern Africa to build a comprehensive stills library, and publishing photographs in Animals magazine, the forerunner to BBC Wildlife magazine.
In 1964, Bob established himself as a freelance film cameraman, regularly working for National Geographic. Assignments included documenting Richard Leakey’s groundbreaking palaeontological expeditions, which he did with an Arriflex borrowed from Des.
In 1968, Bob was unexpectedly asked to look after Dian Fossey’s gorilla camp alone for two months, while Dian was away in America. He seized this unique opportunity, taking his borrowed Arriflex with its mismatched lenses to film the gorillas. In the following year, National Geographic asked Bob to film a long term assignment with Dian and the gorillas, and Bob spent the majority of the next three and half years at the camp. Dian and Bob were often in conflict, as she insisted on maintaining a restrained distance from the gorillas, whereas Bob wanted interactive, dynamic footage. Eventually, after 18 months of filming from a distance on telephoto lenses, Dian let him move in amongst the gorillas and National Geographic praised the then unique footage.
By 1972, Bob had filmed his final footage of the gorillas and in the same year he met Survival founder Aubrey Buxton. He became a Survival cameraman in 1973 and went on to work on many more natural history films for the next 17 years.
After Dian Fossey’s murder in 1985, Bob was invited to do the stills photography for Gorillas in the Mist which was filmed in 1987. Feeling that a lot of the facts were embellished and dramatised in the film, Bob wrote his own account of his time spent with the gorillas for a book published in 2000 entitled, The Taming of the Gorillas.
Shortly afterward, Bob left Survival and is now enjoying his retirement in Kenya.