Zoo's Gillespie Speaks At Explorations Forum
After serving on nuclear submarines, instructing at the Coast Guard's Defense Information School, and escorting news media into war zones, wouldn't the average person be ready for something more sedate? A nice comfy desk job, perhaps?
Not Tom Gillespie. As a public affairs specialist for the North Carolina Zoo, Gillespie often finds himself up close and personal with lions, elephants and rhinos.
It's all in a day's work.
"There have been a few times in the wild, particularly in places like Yellowstone, when I've felt like I was closer to the animals than I should be," Gillespie says. "I've never felt that way at the zoo because the design of most of the exhibits allows me to get close to the animal and yet still have a barrier between them and me."
The chimps are among Gillespie's favorites of the zoo's inhabitants, because of their expressive nature and also because of how close the exhibit design allows him to get. Another favorite is the polar bears as shot from the underwater viewing area.
Before coming to the North Carolina Zoo in 1998, Gillespie spent 16 years in the U.S. Coast Guard and worked as senior editor for Outdoor Traveler magazine. He's amassed a fascinating portfolio of photographs of the people he's met and the places he's traveled. On Sunday, Jan. 28, Gillespie will display some of these photographs and discuss his 30-year career as a photojournalist as part of the "Explorations: A Forum for Adults" series at the Southern Pines Public Library. The program begins at 3 p.m., and refreshments will be served.
During his career, Gillespie's work has appeared in Time Magazine, The New York Times, The National Review, and USA Today, in addition to all of the major wire services and on national and international Web sites. He admits that shooting photos of the animals at the N.C. Zoo has been much more challenging than those he's shot of people.
"You can maneuver people, to some extent, where you want them," he says. "Animals, on the other hand, are simply going to go and do what they want."
Gillespie is assured of taking good photographs of all the zoo's inhabitants, however, simply by waiting them out.
"When I go into the park to shoot, I'm seldom looking for the best lion shot or the best chimp shot or the best elephant shot; I'm simply looking for the best shot at that time -- no matter what the scene or animal happens to be," he says.
After eight years at the Zoo, Gillespie has taken to shooting abstracts of its tens of thousands of imported plants as well. A close-up of a black and white striped object turns out not to be a zebra, but a palm leaf.
"I think the idea for abstracts just grew out of a desire to express my zoo photography in a different way," Gillespie says. "I guess I've pretty much shot every animal from every angle, and I wanted to discover a new way to shoot old ideas and subjects."
For more information about the upcoming Explorations program by Tom Gillespie and for information about "2007: The Year of Moore Explora-tion" joint programming with area libraries, contact the Southern Pines Public Library at 692-8235 or visit www.sppl.net.
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