Photographs tell the stories Dennis Trecek struggles to relate in words.
On his 12-day safari in Kenya in July 2018, he watched millions of wildebeests cross the border of the Serengeti. He watched a family of cheetahs take down a Thomson’s gazelle and elephants play and protect their young.
At home, he runs a car dealership.
“Honestly, this is hard to explain to people without boring them because whenever I try, I can’t stop talking about it,” Trecek said of his photographs on display at Drury Gallery in Portage Center for the Arts. “It’s hard to know where to begin.”
The owner of Trecek Automotive in Portage took more than 7,000 photographs in Amboseli and Masai Mara, two national parks in Kenya. It proved to be a “life-changing” experience for Trecek, one he’s motivated to share with others.
“These are high-resolution images and fairly large in size to give you a sense of how grand this world can be,” Trecek said, giving as an example how stealthy cheetahs are as they walk through the grass and how human-like they are in protecting their young.
“It’s profound because you’re in their environment.”
PCA Visual Arts Committee Chairwoman Kathleen Jahn got to know Trecek at the center’s Local Artist Show in December. There, Trecek was among 35 or so residents displaying their work together in Drury Gallery.
Jahn asked Trecek to showcase his photographs in a standalone exhibit after being impressed by his photograph of a lion and stories from Africa.
“You can see that he spent countless hours photographing these animals and that he picked out the ones that moved him the most,” Jahn said of Trecek’s exhibit, which is up through October and the second monthly exhibit in the gallery’s new season. “The (photographs) give you insight into the wildlife of Africa. I think it’s valuable because many of us are never ever going to be there to experience it in our lives, but this gives you the experience through his photographs.”
Trecek wanted to go to Africa after watching a docuseries about wildlife and landscape photographers on Netflix, he said. The program motivated Trecek — a photographer since age 12 and frequent traveler — to reach out to world-famous photographer Art Wolfe for advice on making the trip.
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“The power of the internet,” Trecek said with a laugh. “I sent him an email through his fan page and he responded.”
Wolfe recommended Italian native Federico Veronesi, who, even on the phone, impressed Trecek with his attention to detail, his high-level organizational skills and knowledge of the animals.
“The next thing I knew, I was transferring money to a bank in Nairobi,” Trecek said of choosing Veronesi as his guide. “He told me everything I wanted to hear.”
Veronesi took a group of seven travelers including Trecek to the national parks and split his time between two vehicles, Trecek said. The guide’s expertise helped Trecek to maximize the trip even beyond for what he had hoped.
Seeing the wildebeests cross the Serengeti was only one example of this and marked Trecek’s favorite memory of Africa.
“On the day before I left, after not seeing any wildebeest to that point, I saw more than a million of them,” Trecek said. “They ran across the river and through the shrubbery and the brush and kicked up dust in the air, generating a perfume-like smell.
“I turned to Fredrico and said, ‘My God, this is amazing.’ He told me that you only get this (smell) when they’re moving through the brush — the aroma that comes from the plants and fills the air and is very strong.”
Trecek valued every aspect the trip, he said, from listening to the same lion roar every night to his interactions with the Masai villagers who held spears outside of his tent on the riverbank, not far from dangerous hippos.
“It was absolutely amazing,” Trecek said of the experience. “I would love to go back.”