Hugo van Lawick - film-maker

Cinematographer and producer

Hugo Van Lawick - film-maker

Hugo Van Lawick (1937–2002) - Cinematographer | Producer | Director

Hugo Van Lawick was born on April 10, 1937 in Soerabaja, Dutch East Indies the son of Baron Hugo Anne Victor Raoul van Lawick (11 August 1909 – 17 June 1941) and the former Isabella Sophia van Ittersum (11 February 1913 – 30 December 1977). He was a cinematographer and producer, known for People of the Forest: The Chimps of Gombe (1988), The World About Us (1967) and The Leopard Son (1996). He was married to Jane Goodall. He died on June 2, 2002 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

For more than thirty years, Hugo van Lawick lived and worked alongside the wildlife of the African plains, filming many of the animals that live there and becoming an expert on the behaviour of such species as: African wild dogs, leopards and wildebeest. Hugo's individual style of cinematography placed an emphasis on the individual, where possible, and while contemporaries were concentrating on obtaining portrait shots, he paid particular attention to the lighting of his subject and documenting action.

Hugo began his career in 1957 working with a Dutch film company that made commercials, before moving to Africa with the hope of fulfilling his desire to film wildlife. After working for Armand and Michaela Denis for a while in the early 1960s, Hugo was suggested as a cameraman to the National Geographic Society by the famous archaeologist Louis Leakey, a working relationship that was to last for more than five years.

It was the National Geographic Society who first sent Hugo to Gombe Reserve in Tanzania to make a lecture film. This led to his study of three generations of chimpanzees that lasted over twenty years, culminating in his film People of the Forest, and also introducing him to his wife and collaborator for many years, Jane Goodall.

In 1968, Hugo became an independent producer and cameraman, and moved towards filming for the cinema screen, which he felt was a better medium to display the incredible sceneries and large numbers of animals of the Serengeti. His aim was to get people emotionally involved with the animals that he filmed, thus turning them into conservationists.

In 1998, Hugo was forced to retire due to emphysema. He left Ndutu to live with his son in Dar es Salaam, where he died at the age of 65. On 7 June, during a ceremony attended by family, friends, staff and government officials, Hugo was buried at the place his tent had stood for over 30 years in his camp in the Serengeti.

Hugo van Lawick won eight Emmy awards for his films and in 1992 was appointed Officer in the Order of the Golden Ark, which is awarded to the world's most distinguished conservationists. Hugo was awarded the Panda for Outstanding Achievement at Wildscreen 2000.


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Books & Films

Through his still photographs and films, Van Lawick helped popularize the study of chimpanzees during his then-wife Jane Goodall's studies at Gombe Stream National Park during the 1960s and 1970s. His films drew the attention of the viewing public to the dramatic life cycles of several wild animals of the Serengeti, such as wild dogs, elephants, and lions.

Through his film People of the Forest the world came to know members of Gombe's "F" family, namely Flo, Fifi, and Flint, in addition to a number of their other immediate relations. By the time he stopped filming at Gombe, he had created a visual record spanning over twenty years and documenting the lives of three generations of chimpanzees. Hugo made a number of wildlife documentaries for television, but also made several films for theatrical release on 35 mm film, such as The Leopard Son and Serengeti Symphony, both produced by Nature Conservation Films WW. Besides making films himself, Hugo was an important influence and mentor to a younger generation of wildlife filmmakers. His tented camp, Ndutu, in the Serengeti, became through his guidance a breeding ground for new wildlife film-makers.



Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom (TV Series documentary) (1 episode) - Cheetahs: Against All Odds (2009)

2006 Built for the Kill (TV Series documentary) (1 episode) - Grassland

2002 Addo: The King of the Beasts (Documentary)

2000 Nature (TV Series documentary) (1 episode) - Earth Navigators (2000) ... (photography)

1999 Cheetah Story (TV Movie documentary)

1998 Serengeti Symphony (Documentary)

1996 The Leopard Son (Documentary)

1995 Wings Over the Serengeti (TV Movie documentary)

1989 Serengeti Diary (TV Movie)

1988 People of the Forest: The Chimps of Gombe (TV Movie documentary)

1984 Among the Wild Chimpanzees (TV Movie documentary)

1976 The World About Us (TV Series documentary) (1 episode) - Lions of the Serengeti (1976)

1973 Jane Goodall and the World of Animal Behavior: The Wild Dogs of Africa (TV Movie documentary)

1966-1971 National Geographic Specials (TV Series documentary) (3 episodes) - Monkeys, Apes & Man (1971) - Winged World (1967) - The Hidden World of Insects (1966)



1970 - Innocent killers by Hugo van Lawick and Jane Goodall

1974 - Solo: The Story of an African Wild Dog

1977 - Savage Paradise: The Predators of Serengeti

1986 - Among predators and prey


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