While 99% of us are certifiably terrified of snakes and other reptiles, Indiana Madden-Olle spends her days with them as a biologist, a reptile handler and photographer. We had a chance to chat with her about what it’s like to get up close and personal with our scaly friends.
All reptile photography by Indiana Madden-Olle
So you work as a Reptile Handler… what’s involved?
A lot of the work is not glamorous. There is a lot of reptile and reptile enclosure cleaning and this is probably the most dangerous part.
You’re studying to become a Science teacher. What drew you to that career path?
As any photographer will know, it is difficult to make a career in this area and it’s extremely expensive. I’m studying to become a Science teacher to help pursue my photography but also to help educate young people to be more aware and better conservationists.
Favourite shooting locations and why?
Unless I am shooting captive snakes, shooting locations usually need to lend themselves to having at least a few specimens available to film. Komodo National park in Indonesia was by far my favourite location. On arrival, we were greeted by not only tens of Komodo dragons but were even graced by a beautiful spitting cobra within the first hour on Komodo Island. That night we were then lucky enough to find a blue phase White Lipped Pit Viper, only a few specimens of which have been found.
Work with a team or alone?
Working alone when filming snakes can not only be very dangerous but it is also highly frustrating. A lot of work can go into ensuring that say a tiny lizard or a 4m snake is facing in the right direction and the tail and/or feet are fully visible. I have been lucky enough to work with a highly experienced photographer and snake handler.
Why do you think most people are scared of reptiles?
I think being scared of reptiles is embedded within most people from a young age. I have many friends who won’t go near a small gecko but will happily approach a horse, I see no logic in this. Many people, my partner for example, will lose that fear when they become more knowledgeable about different species and their capabilities.
Any times you can think of where wildlife has gotten cosy in your tent?
Working as a reptile handler and travelling with reptiles has lead to many interesting and close encounters, oddly enough the only wildlife I’ve had share a tent was a micro bat. A beautiful and calm creature who allowed me to hang out with and observe briefly but was happy when I offered an escape.
Do you give any of the reptiles names?
It may be my girly side showing but I tend to give all the reptiles names, sometimes they are cute and affectionate names other times they may be named due to their tendencies to attack, among other things.
What are the largest and smallest reptiles you’ve photographed?
I have photographed many small geckos; this is something I really enjoy, as I like to give these tiny creatures a sense of personality through my photography. The largest reptile I have photographed was a 4.2m king cobra in Bali, which was incredibly humbling.
Have you ever been bitten/ ever had to treat someone else’s bite?
I have been fortunate enough to only be bitten by python and mildly venomous snakes. I had a nasty 2.5m python bite the inside of my arm, due to the area bitten and the time it took to get the snake off, there was quite a lot of blood. In saying that I was perfectly fine and back to work after applying a few Band-Aids. I have treated a workmate for an anaphylactic reaction to a mildly venomous snakebite. Due to his multiple envenomations, he has developed an allergic reaction to venom and a mildly venomous snake, which had bitten both of us caused full anaphylaxis in him and mild swelling on me.