"and all the earth is wild with light..."
ABOUT JEMMA WILD
When I created Jemma wild, I had no idea what I would become and how I would influence the safari-travel scene so much. Today I sit here in utter awe at the magic I am part of and the inspiration I given so many to follow in my footsteps.
This is my story:
Having pivoted my 10 years in advertising to interior design, I wanted to escape the 9-5 obligation of connecting consumer goods to people that we made up on paper. As a digital strategist working in FMCG, the light and love of magical connections to experiences didn't exist and I yearned to replace selling "things" in my life. Having studied Fashion and Textiles, I decided to lean on my love for beautiful, visual spaces and being a child of Africa, my canvas calling landed me in the Okavango Delta as my first and sadly, last decorator job.. but looking back this was just the tee that set up the rest of my life.
During that year, I found my light in the wild; navigating locals, elephants and guests I started to understand the ultra-luxury safari industry from the inside out. From guest's perspective on travelling Africa for the first time, to the frustrations of managers behind the scenes trying to come up with innovative ways to make their lodge memorable - I always seemed to be 'part' of conversations whilst navigating a pendant light from a ladder.
But just as it all started coming together, Covid hit. From the wildest place in Africa, to the four-walls of my Johannesburg home I watched budgets disappear and my business vanish..... or so I thought: "Everything in Africa bites, but the safari bug is the worst of all"
I often get asked what made me such a successful photographer in the Safari-Travel industry in such a short time, I could bla-on about hard work and persistence but ultimately it all came down to my relationships and producing work that connected with people. Following on the years from Covid I decided to try another angle to keep me in the safari-scene, again leaning on my foundation of fashion and style I used the insights from past guests to carve a niche that had never been done before. "How to look good on Safari".
All I had read from traditional safari broadcasts was about technical zip-off attire that needed to cover your nose to your toes (FYI Africa bites). I noticed how guests walked around me asking where I got my outfits and accessories, and realised this traditional way of selling-safari was holding people back from feeling and looking good on their ultra-luxury bucket-list holidays. Style was part of my DNA - and I thought "why on earth does it have to stop on safari?" That's where today's Jemma Wild was born.
I worked hard at content creation, photographing the safari-world from a newer perspective. As lodges went back to their stale-marketing techniques luring in safari-die hards with wildlife, I watched ultra-luxury properties shy away from their own magic. Without people in their pictures how could other travellers trust this experience? And that's how I entered into the scene, I became the go-to-(stylish) safari girl you saw in all your safari lodge content - and it connected with people.
I've always been the person behind the scenes. From my background of fashion and publishing, I styled sets, models and locations working WITH photographers. Never did I think that I would need to turn myself into an umbrella of this being to change the visual perceptions of the safari industry. I used my digital strategy hat to position this brand, my fashion styling to create Jemma Wild, my inquisitive nature to build networks and my years of photography hobby'ing to make it come alive.
3 years later, I've been hired as a photographer, influencer, content producer, writer, marketing consultant and lodge experiences consultant all within the safari-travel industry. The work I do is a powerful tool for education, especially in the African landscape. Educating and engaging international travellers on African travel and conservation is a privilege. Even though it may be blanketed in golden hour light splashed across digital screens, I have managed to create the banners though my photographic eye that have open the doors to these conversations, and inspired travellers to visit our home, Africa.