Since 2006, Johan Vermeulen has produced and captured a number of award-winning documentaries and photographs. He is a passionate freelance cameraman and photographer based in South Africa, specializing in wildlife and documentary film.
More about Johan
“At the age of 8, we moved to a game farm bordering the Kruger National Park. This is where I spent my years growing up, and learning about the bush.
My first real interest started with bird watching. I used to know where every little bird had a nest in and around our garden. From bird watching and looking at wildlife books and magazines, these wonderful photos triggered an interest in photography. At then, at the age of 10 I got my first SLR camera with a 70-300mm zoom lens. It was a dream come true. Needless to say, afternoons after school were spent building bird hides to get closer to the birds.
On the reserve we had all of the big 5, except for buffalo. It was great privilege growing up like this. At night, I would wake up to the sounds of hippo ‘mowing the lawn’ right outside my window. I would watch in awe, as this huge hippo would stand right outside my window, going about his own business. And then obviously we had the hyenas terrorizing our dogs as well! And not to mention the lions!
I also had some great experiences, witnessing and being part of many wildlife relocations and darting of some of the big 5 animals. I am so grateful that I have had these great opportunities and wild lifestyle at such a young age.
I was also the one in the family to look after all the orphaned wildlife. I successfully raised a few birds, a Bush Buck, Impala, Duiker, mongoose and a Warthog. All these animals would be part of the family. And all of them returned back into the wild.
My passion for photography grew stronger and stronger. By the time I finished high school, I have won a few awards and knew what I wanted to do for a living. However, after I spent a week with wildlife filmmaker Kim Wolhuter during our Grade 11 work experience week, I knew I wanted to be a wildlife cameraman.
Instead of university fees, my parents helped me buy a video camera, and sent me off to the Kgalagadi with my tent to spend two months in the reserve filming. From there I got the idea to do a documentary on the Cape Ground Squirrels. Two months later, armed with a short promo film, I set off to Cape Town to attend the Wildlife Film Academy and the Wild Talk Africa Film Festival. It wasn’t long until I got my first film commissioned, called Kalahari Tails.
Kalahari Tails followed the lives of a group of Cape Ground Squirrels and won me three awards at various international film festivals.
My favourite place is definitely the Kgalagadi. I have returned to this beautiful park for a second documentary and spent a total of two and a half years following leopards and Wild Cats… a true highlight.”