By Staff reporter
WINDHOEK, April 4 — Photographer Marisa Ishimatsu used to be afraid of snakes like many of us. However, a friend in college introduced her to the beauty of these reptiles, which sparked a new creative passion for her. Over a decade ago, Ishimatsu began seeking out and photographing snakes, and her latest adventure brought her to Africa. Together with fellow photographer Thor Hakonsen and several others, she set out to photograph all six species of adder found in Namibia.
The group spent 10 days searching for these snakes, with the help of a local guide. Eventually, they were able to track down and photograph all six species, including the Peringuey’s adder, which expertly camouflages itself in the sands of the Namib Desert, and the Namaqua Dwarf Adder, the world’s smallest venomous snake.
For Ishimatsu, her goal is not only to photograph these animals but to expose others to their ordinary habits. She wants people to view snakes in the same way that many of us now view other predators like wolves, lions, and tigers – with awe, respect, and acknowledgement that these animals have just as much right to live their lives as we do. Through her photography, Ishimatsu hopes to help people appreciate the adaptability of these reptiles and look beyond their fears.
Many people have responded to her desert photos with statements like, “I’ll never step in the sand again!” Instead, Ishimatsu encourages people to look at how these snakes work hard to survive in a difficult environment. Peringuey’s adders, for example, are perfectly adapted to their windblown, sandy habitats. Their eyes on the top of their head and their reinforced nostrils have evolved to be the only portions of the snake exposed while the rest is buried. They sometimes wave their tail tip above the sand to lure a hungry lizard to come close and become a meal itself. For water, they drink condensed fog off their coils.
Ishimatsu’s love for Namibia has led her to plan a photography tour with The Naturalist Collection in 2024. If you’re interested in seeing more of her wildlife and snake photography, you can follow Ishimatsu’s work on Flickr, where she also has select images available for purchase on Etsy. In the end, she was able to document all of the snakes she’d come to Africa to find, proving that facing our fears can lead to unexpected and beautiful outcomes. – Namibia Daily News