Trinity University Press

Jane Goodall-Stewart Halperin

Time, the Magic Ingredient

Stewart Halperin

    It was the beginning of 1971, and I was working at the Delta Regional Primate Center in Louisiana with Dr. Emil Menzel. It was time for me to head off to Gombe. Dr. Menzel and my advisor from Washington University, Dr. Fox, suggested that was where I had to be: in the wild working at Jane Goodall’s research station. When the invitation finally came from Jane it was both magical and shocking. I was heading off to Africa. The next 22 months transformed my life in so many ways.

    From that very first day in Kigoma came a reoccurring theme that still guides me in my life and work today: the role that time plays in doing good things in your work, your job, your relationships and mastering whatever subject you tackle.

    That very first day in Kigoma, I boarded a very large boat with a few other folks bound for Gombe. I was Twenty-one years of age and had no idea what I was in for. The two or three hour trip from Kigoma to Gombe immediately set the pace for the new world I was entering. I had entered another time zone. I could see that things were going to start moving at a very different pace then they had been back home in St. Louis, or for that matter, even the slower-paced Louisiana .

    Looking back at those months at Gombe I now realize that Jane was my mentor, enabling me to understand how time is related to all things worthwhile. The concept of time and how it can be defined in so many ways is what makes Jane stand out from the crowd. The time it took to persevere when she arrived in 1960. Meeting the challenges of climate, habitat, the long process of getting the chimps use to her.

    Even then in 1971 when I arrived and we had a fabulous group of researchers, I certainly did not fully understand the magnitude of what Jane did to make our research lives so much easier those first 10 years. It has taken me years of putting my own time in to really appreciate what comes from this commitment in the intellectual, emotion and spiritual sense. But, to sum it all up, this is what Jane and Gombe taught me.

    I have been a photographer for almost 45 years now, working in over 95 countries. I have never taken a photo class or workshop (though I teach workshops worldwide), but time has allowed me to be a good observer. When people ask what my training was and how I have such a good sense of image and composition, I say, “I watched chimps at Gombe. I saw the circadian rhythm of life passing in front of my lens and I watched.”

    Have I put the time in that Jane has? Without a doubt: no. She is single minded and dedicated beyond us mortals. We are all the more lucky for that. So Jane may you continue your magical journey, and once in while take a break. Thanks you for the gift of understanding the deep essence of the meaning of time.       

    Stewart D. Halperin, a photographer based in St. Louis, Missouri, developed a passion for photography while working under Jane Goodall at Gombe during the early 1970s.