Richard and Cherry Kearton

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The Keartons photographing a bird's nest, 1890s. Cherry is on Richard's shoulders.

Richard Kearton FZS, FRPS (1862–1928) and Cherry Kearton (8 July 1871–27 September 1940), brothers, were a pair of British naturalists and some of the world's earliest wildlife photographers. They developed innovative methods to photograph animals in the wild and in 1895 published the first natural history book to be entirely illustrated by wild photographs.[1]:21 Kearton was a made a Fellow of the Zoological Society of London, and Royal Photographic Society. Cherry later became a wildlife and news filmmaker, and friend to Theodore Roosevelt. The Royal Geographical Society created the Cherry Kearton Medal and Award in his honour.


Richard and Cherry were born in the village of Thwaite, North Riding of Yorkshire, England, the second and fourth sons parents Mary and John Kearton. Their father was a yeoman farmer. The brothers were educated in Muker and Richard was a farmerrmer in Swaledale, Yorkshire, until 1882, and manager of a publicity department at the publishing house Cassell & Co. until 1898. He married Ellen Rose Conway in 1889 and had three sons and two daughters.[2]

Cherry married Mary Burwood Coates in 1900, with whom he had a son, also named Cherry, and a daughter, Nina. They divorced in 1920, and he married Ada Forrest, a South African soprano, in 1922. He died in 1940 after reading for the BBC's Children's Hour. The Royal Geographical Society's Cherry Kearton Medal and Award was created in his honour.[3]


Cherry Kearton specialised in animal photography, having taken the first ever photograph of a bird's nest with eggs in 1892. In the summer of 1896 he and his brother , a naturalist, reached the Outer Hebridean islands of St Kilda and many other remote places. In 1898 their famous book With Nature and a Camera, illustrated by 160 photographs, was published in London by Cassell. Cherry Kearton contributed photographs to seventeen of Richard Kearton's books, and wrote and illustrated a further seventeen titles of his own. He made the first phonograph recording of birds (a nightingale and a song thrush) singing in the wild in 1900; took the first film of London from the air in 1908, and the first footage of hostilities in the First World War at Antwerp in 1914. Cherry and Richard Kearton are perhaps best remembered for the development of naturalistic photographic hides, including the stuffed ox of 1900 and the stuffed sheep of 1901.[4]


Cherry Kearton filming with aeroscope

Cherry and Richard Kearton shot a number of 'shorts' of birds and animals for Charles Urban in the years 1905-1908. From 1909, Cherry moved into the field of wildlife documentary film making, shot on visits to Africa, India, Borneo, the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. He directed more than thirty films for his film companies Cherry Kearton Ltd and Cherry Kearton Films Ltd.,[4] including the following:

In the beginning, Kearton used a clumsy Kinemascope film camera on tripod, but around 1911 he switched to Aeroscope camera, which led to superior results for this light, one hand operated equipment was better suited to wildlife cinematography.[5]



  • Kearton's Wildlife, part of the series Nation on Film BBC Two, 26 February 2007
  • Bevis, John (2007). Direct From Nature: The Photographic Work of Richard & Cherry Kearton. Colin Sackett. ISBN 978-0953704866.
  • Mitchell, W. R. (2001). Watch the Birdie: The Life and Times of Richard and Cherry Kearton, Pioneers of Nature Photography. Settle: Castleberg. ISBN 1871064341.


  1. ^ Guggisberg, C. A. W. (1977). Early Wildlife Photographers. New York: Taplinger Publishing Co. ISBN 0800823524.
  2. ^ Who's Who. London: A. & C. Black & Co. 1919. pp. 1847–1848.
  3. ^ "Medals and Awards" (PDF). Royal Geographical Society. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 October 2013. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
  4. ^ a b Bevis, John (2007) Direct From Nature: The Photographic Work of Richard & Cherry Kearton, Colin Sackett.
  5. ^ Palle B. Petterson. "Cameras into the Wild: A History of Early Wildlife and Expedition Filmmaking".

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