About Paul Harcourt Davies
PaulHD is a writer, photographer and passionate environmentalist who has written 17 books (running to 46 editions in various languages) and numerous articles. In another life, for the past six years he has been renovator of an Italian farmhouse with partner Lois Ferguson. They decided on the DIY route - so he became electrician, carpenter, plasterer, stonemason. Hidden Worlds tours and courses are run from their Italian home and base Podere Montecucco
The world at close-quarters is both a passion and specialism and PHD’s work, including books and photographs has brought recognition and many friends worldwide. A great deal of this is visible on the blog shared with top pros Niall Benvie and Andrew Parkinson
The formative years
”The natural world has been an integral part of life from as early as I can remember: my earliest nature memories involve watching dragonflies beside a stream when I was about three and of taking a blackbird’s egg out of a nest to look at when I was five and then falling...distraught. Then, more happily, there were peacock butterflies on Michaelmas daisies, keeping tadpoles, finding bee orchids...and the revelation: getting a first microscope when I was seven. I was hooked and still am “
PaulHD was born in Pontycymer in the Garw Valley, South Wales. At secondary school, sciences and mathematics were always a particular passion, though languages and art still play their role in his life.
in full flow -Wildphotos 2009
Natural history was always present but, at fifteen, PHD became obsessed with mathematics and later won a place at Balliol College, Oxford to read natural sciences (physics). PhD research in London followed...and he moved more towards mathematics (especially techniques applicable to biological systems). A first SLR camera was obtained in 1972 and every available moment was subsequently spent in the field taking photographs: he took several professional photographic courses at Sir John Cass College and the Polytechnic of Central London.
From 1978--81 he lived in Cyprus, helped set up the Cyprus Biological Association, first broadcast on radio and TV and began writing the first book (Wild Orchids of Britain and Europe). On return to the UK he taught in schools and colleges in the UK and became a full-time freelance in 1986.
Books, lectures etc - for a list click here
The first book Wild Orchids of Britain & Europe appeared in 1983 and was followed by other flower books, several travel guides (Greek Islands, Rhodes, Cyprus – Globetrotter series) with book number 10 the Complete Guide to Close-up & Macrophotography (David and Charles) appearing in 1998 in English, German, and Dutch co editions. French and Spanish editions appeared in 2001. To date, there are 17 books written and a recent Amazon search showed there are 46 editions... several others are in preparation.
Tours and Courses here
PaulHD and Lois Ferguson lead photographic and natural history tours as well as courses on photography for their company Hidden Worlds . Paul has acted as consultant for projects involving conservation and eco-tourism in UK, Cyprus, USA, Azores and Italy...
Other varied bits and pieces (not an exhaustive list):
Over the years he has run numerous courses and workshops at Kew Gardens, The RHS Wisley, Bristol University and Cardiff University... on nature photography, ecology of Mediterranean plants and given talks throughout the UK, in Cyprus, USA and Italy both on specialist photographic techniques and on botanical subjects, especially orchids.
Snippets: Paul was honoured to be chosen as one of the speakers at Wildphotos 2008, the most prestigious conference of its kind worldwide and contributed the section on Flower Photography in the new Focal Encyclopaedia of Photography.
Photography is also used to support his much wider interests in Mediterranean wild orchids/plantlife and Mediterranean ecology as well as a string of educational ventures here in Italy. In 1991 he was given an award for services to conservation in Cyprus and is life vice president of the Hardy Orchid Society and former chairman of Butterfly Conservation. South Wales.
Living Abroad - a personal note
“In 2003 we (Paul HD and Lois Ferguson) took a leap and decided to move to Italy. In reality I had never settled down to UK life after a return from Cyprus. We bought a run-down farmhouse which we have renovated together: I provided muscle and did stonework, woodwork, plastering, electrics...and cooked. Lois spoke the language well and I have learned by ‘submersion’ helped by school Latin that had been augmented by scientific names for plants and insects!”
Being a naturalist in Italy is more difficult than in the UK and I have nothing but admiration for the dedicated few who operate here. There is no tradition of interest in nature (unless you can eat it) and so I am happy to support and encourage wherever and whenever I can. I take the attitude that I am essentially outside the system, have no ‘political debts’ and thus can tread where angels might fear. So, nothing changes there !
The fact that I can make things from wood has been useful...the bottom line is surviving as a photographer and writer and living here in a home we have sweated over...it is the way our many Italian friends do it.
beauty and the beast
Working with children here in Italy and helping friends who run projects was an unplanned bonus and I love seeing the joy as they ‘wake up’ to what is around them. However, what has particularly delighted me is the birth of Tallulah Belle Claire O’Donnell, in June 2009, my first grandchild. It has made me determined to do whatever I can to raise awareness of what we are losing.
Virtually all the projects I am now involved with have an element of ‘close to home’ the subject of the presentation I gave at Wildphotos 2008 and I am deeply committed to raising awareness of what is around us through my photographs and also of ensuring the highest possible standards of integrity in nature photography: without that credibility vanishes
Paul Harcourt Davies 2010