Villager Jim: The anonymous photographer and his sleeping dog

Dilly Image copyright Villager Jim
Image caption Dilly sleeping - "One of the most viewed Labrador pictures in the world"

Dubbed the "Banksy of the photographic world", the mysterious Villager Jim only picked up a camera a few years ago but now makes his living from taking wildlife snaps.

Here, he explains how a picture of his dog went viral, his passion for wildlife, and how he is enjoying being anonymous.

"Everybody knows my Dilly shot", says Villager Jim.

"I think it is one of the most viewed Labrador pictures in the world."

He said the photo came about after his dog came back from a walk and was "nodding off" in a chair at their Peak District home.

"I had just bought a new lens and was resting it on my hands," he said. "Like a kid with a new toy."

"So, I took a photo and that one picture has changed my life."

Image copyright Villager Jim
Image caption The latest addition to Villager Jim's fold - Barnaby - is proving a big hit online

The picture of Dilly first went viral after it was used in a story claiming she belonged to an American marine who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It is totally made up," says Villager Jim, "But it got to the point where I just couldn't do anything about it - it was appearing on hundreds of internet sites.

"So, I thought I would look at it positively - it's more people looking at my pictures."

Villager Jim said the idea of keeping his real identity a secret started as a bit of a laugh.

He said the landlord of his local would point him out to tourists as the photographer who took the Dilly picture and other images in a book displayed at the pub.

Jim said he wanted to be able to enjoy a "quiet pint" without being disturbed - so came up with the idea of the name.

The 50-year-old, who prefers to remain out of the limelight, said: "Amazingly, there is only one person - who I won't name - who put my details out there - and he was another photographer."

Villager Jim, who was likened to Banksy when he appeared on the BBC's Countryfile show, has recently made the headlines for campaigning against a planned deer cull near his home.

He said: "It's a funny thing - it wasn't meant to be a campaign - I just realised it was something where I wanted to put my head above the parapet and say what I thought.

"I'm lucky to have a bit of a following on Facebook and although normally I like to keep it light-hearted, with the cull of the deer at Curbar, it hit a chord and I felt I should say something."

The campaign has attracted the support of almost 9,000 people to date.

Image copyright
Image caption Villager Jim asked people to share this picture showing a stag with a fawn on Facebook in a bid to raise awareness and gather opposition to the cull
Image copyright Villager Jim
Image caption The cull is running until April in an area near Curbar and Froggatt

The photographer said: "I'm not political and am no expert on conservation, but I just thought there had to be a more humane way."

He said: "I like to take pictures that make people smile - I get people who can't get out saying it's lovely to see the countryside come to them."

Image copyright Villager Jim
Image caption Villager Jim likes to put his own twist on his nature pictures
Image copyright Villager Jim
Image caption He said it is important that his work spreads the "feel-good factor"
Image copyright Villager Jim
Image caption Villager Jim said he walks the area around his home most days taking photos of the wildlife
Image copyright Villager Jim
Image caption He said much of his success "is down to us being an absolute nation of animal lovers"

He puts his success down to a combination of the viral photo of Dilly, being lucky enough to have an abundance of wildlife near his home and his anonymity.

"I don't think most people want to know who I am," he said.

"That, together with the pictures and titles, make up what Villager Jim is about, I think."

He added: "We are an absolute nation of animal lovers - there is this annoyance that everything in the news is negative and people just want to escape for a bit."

Villager Jim, who is originally from Sheffield, moved to the Peak District about 12 years ago, and only took up photography at his current home about eight years ago.

He said: "I'd never picked up a camera until I moved here. I live on a farm and my inspiration was seeing the wildlife everywhere."

Image copyright Villager Jim
Image caption He said his inspiration for taking up photography was the abundance of wildlife on his doorstep

The photographer used to sell wallpaper on Portobello Market and later ran a software company, when he became ill.

He said: "I didn't realise for a number of years I was diabetic - so I ended up with this knackering illness that destroyed all my leg nerves and I was six months in bed.

"I lay there thinking if I ever get better 'I'm bloody well going to do what I want to do with my life' - so I did."

"And, amazingly luckily it's taken off," he said.

Villager Jim - whose real identity is known only to his close friends and family - said he intended to remain anonymous and "let his pictures do the talking" for as long as he could.

Even among the people who know him, he likes to take a back seat, adding he was thankful his daughter celebrated her 18th birthday on the same day he turned 50.

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