Is this the Peak District’s answer to Banksy?
A mysterious wildlife photographer who is originally from Sheffield is enjoying worldwide success after a picture of his dog falling asleep became an online success – being viewed more than 10 million times on the internet.
Now the man who calls himself ‘Villager Jim’ has gone on to sell more than 60,000 greeting cards of his images and is soon to feature on an upcoming episode of BBC One show Countryfile.
Jim, who has asked The Star to conceal his real identity, also has a highly successful Facebook page with almost 14,000 subscribers.
The 48-year-old dad-of-two, who lives in the village of Foolow, moved to the Peak District from Sheffield around seven years ago to set up a holiday accommodation company.
But he said his normal business is now being overtaken by the interest in his images of animals and nature scenes around the Peaks, including at Chatsworth.
Jim said photography has been an amateur passion for him since moving to the Peaks but he decided to do something more with his talent after achieving online success with a picture of his dog around 18 months ago.
He said: “It all started as I have a Labrador and I took a picture of her falling asleep in her chair and it went viral.
“Online in the States, it has been viewed over 10 million times.”
He said the interest in the US had been sparked by an incorrect internet rumour the dog in the picture actually previously belonged to a soldier who had been killed in Iraq.
While Jim initially tried to correct the rumours, he said it became impossible to stop the story spreading. But the response to the picture encouraged him to develop his interest in photography.
Jim started selling prints of the Labrador picture to local pubs and had a book of his wildlife photography made, although just three copies were printed.
He gave one of the books to his local pub and after it generated interest from visitors, Jim decided to protect his identity so he could enjoy a quiet pint instead of being pointed out by the landlord every time he went in.
For his next volume of photographs, he came up with the name Villager Jim and got to enjoy his success in relative anonymity.
Jim said: “I thought ‘I’m going to make up a name’ and called myself Villager Jim. I got to watch quietly as people looked at the book, which was wonderfully exciting, and it caught on from there.”
He said the beauty of the Peak District provides plenty of inspiration for his work.
“I’m out every single day of my life, whether it is raining or not,” he said.
“It is so full of wildlife which I love.”
At the start of this year, he decided to start selling greeting cards featuring his images and has already managed to sell 60,000 online and through over 200 outlets in Derbyshire that stock his work.
He said: “It has just gone ballistic and long may it last.”