In 1921, when Martin and Osa arrived for the first time in Kenya, battle lines were being drawn concerning the future of East Africa’s wildlife. Many white settlers favored eradicating the animals because of agricultural interests, while conservationists and guides preferred game preservation. The Johnsons were there to make an authentic record of wildlife in its natural state at the urging of Carl Akeley. By the time they left in 1922, Martin and Osa had shot 100,000 feet of film and taken hundreds of still pictures. The resulting film, ”Trailing African Wild Animals,” premiered in April 1923 while Martin’s book “Camera Trails in Africa” was published a year later in 1924.
For the first several months, they made photographic safaris to several areas in central Kenya, including the Athi Plains, the Ithanga Hills, the Loita Hills and northwest across the Loita Plains. Their trip culminated with a visit to the northern reaches of Kenya, specifically Mount Marsabit where they spent time camped near a lake which they named Paradise. Here they found an area seldom visited by sportsmen hunters and animals easier to approach.
After a few short months they left Lake Paradise, but resolved to return for a longer period of time. With its undisturbed wildlife, they felt this was the ideal place to make a permanent record of African wildlife.
Photography note: Martin + Osa Johnson often used and experimented with different types of film and cameras in the field, and each took still shots and ran film footage. Repetitions and duplicates of images in order and the repetition of the same images in later series numbers stem from the use of these different cameras, film types and each series may have been done by Martin, Osa or a mix of both. The numbering system in the expedition photos is the one Martin created for their inventory.