Small Village to a Global Success – Neville’s StoryNatasha Jebens
Neville Ngomane contacted me in 2018 asking me to bring my Wild Shots Outreach program to his secondary school just outside Sigagule village in Mpumalanga, South Africa. At the time Neville was only 17 years old and I was intrigued to meet this proactive young man who clearly had a passion for wildlife.
Upon my arrival, Neville has already organized the classroom and recruited a group of students who were interested in wildlife conservation and photography. During our photography workshop, Neville proved to be as motivated in person and immediately I saw something special in his willingness to learn and his test photographs.
After the photography workshop, I took him and his class on their first game drive, and amongst all of the excitement, he managed to capture some amazing images. Coming across wild dogs, rhinos, and cheetahs, this sparked an hour-long conversation about rhino conservation and his thoughts on the matter. Overall the experience was so inspiring, to see such a young man, who had experienced unimaginable hardship, be so passionate about a cause and about spreading conservation awareness. I knew this was just the beginning of his journey to success.
The next year, Neville and I kept in touch, unemployed and not sure where his life was heading, Neville never gave up and still had big dreams of making his mark on the world and spreading messages of conservation. Through the Wild Shots Outreach program, we managed to rally together and give Neville a second-hand camera and laptop. We could see from a mile off, the promise that this young man had. All he needed were some tools that many of us take for granted.
Taking him under my wing, I started taking Neville with me on photo assignments. I have never met anybody so willing to learn and absorb all the information thrown his way. One such engagement was covering a rhino dehorning operation for Rhino Revolution, an organization that dehorns rhinos in a desperate attempt to stop poachers from killing them, and I noticed Neville working hard to get low angles right in front of the rhino. Being that close to such a powerful creature is enough to invoke fear in anyone, but Neville was up to the task. Showing me, once again, that this man approached life with a fearlessness that would take him far.
When I returned to my office I went through his images and one shot really stood out. We named the image “Desperate Measures”. We decided to enter the image in some competitions and Neville went on to win a worldwide competition and the title of “Young Environmental Photographer of the Year”. We were ecstatic, but this was just the beginning.
From there Neville’s career exploded, winning this accolade led the image to gain global recognition. Neville made his debut on both national and international TV, sharing his message on conservation awareness and the power of photography.
We took Neville and his group from rural Mpumalanga to Cape Town for the Wild Shots Wildlife Photography Conference. Here the students’ photos were seen by top wildlife photographers including the keynote speaker, world-renowned photographer, and best-selling author Michael Poliza.
Neville was then invited to fly to Hong Kong to speak at their Elephant and Rhino Conservation Conference. Neville and I often laughed that he had been up close and personal with some of the most dangerous animals out there and didn’t flinch, but take him on his first airplane flight and he was shaking a little in his boots!
In Hong Kong, Neville wowed his audiences with his passion and charm. He proved such a success that he was invited, by the organizers, to stay an extra week. During this week, he toured local schools talking about his image and the importance of rhino conservation. Neville returned from Hong Kong with some very poignant images of himself, standing in front of ivory and wildlife product traders, while holding his images of rhino dehorning operations. These images also gained recognition and helped spread the message of conservation even further.
So after all of this excitement, Neville returned home and, alongside two other program graduates, joined Conservation South Africa and the Wild Shots Outreach Media Team. They spent 12 months completing photo assignments and video shoots and they ran the Wild Shots Outreach workshops with me.
Neville’s journey to success didn’t end there, he is now studying for a BA in filmmaking at AFDA Media College in Cape Town. His tuition, equipment, board, and lodging are all covered by the Wild Shots Outreach bursary fund. Neville is one of six graduates of the program that we are supporting.
Not every Wild Shots Outreach photographer goes on to win competitions or to be published in the media. They do all learn photography and visit a game reserve for the first time. And they all get the opportunity to learn about the value of conserving the wildlife living just a few kilometers from their villages.
Giving a young person a camera gives them a voice. It gives them a voice and allows them to tell their story. In this way, photography boosts self-esteem and self-confidence. Our students develop pride in their photos, a pride in themselves, and pride in their country’s wildlife and wild places. Through Wild Shots Outreach we are developing the photographers and conservationists of the future.
At African Dream Foods it is our privilege to support organizations such as Wild Shots. We hope that reading about Neville’s journey to success made you feel as warm and fuzzy as it makes us feel! Purchasing a bottle of our hot sauce, spices and seasonings is so much more than simply enjoying the craft sauce we create it’s supporting funds like Wild Shots and others who protect and conserve wildlife in Africa. We donate with every bottle purchased! To view our full range and get yours today, simply click here.