All Photographers Have to Start Somewhere
One of the first photos I ever took was a portrait of a Kayapo warrior that I captured by pure chance with an old Nikon Camera. At the time, I was in the Kayapo village of A’Ukre to attend a meeting of the chiefs to address the impending threat of the Belo Monte dam; a hydroelectric monstrosity that would displace many Indigenous and rural communities from their homes. The resulting image became the centerpiece of an exhibit. It was the first print of mine ever to be publicly displayed– and it was mistakenly credited to my then husband, conservationist Russ Mittermeier. Still, the image remains one of my favorite photos and ultimately became the catalyst for my love of photography. I remember looking at it and thinking to myself: wow, I can do this!
After returning home with a photo I was genuinely proud of, I got my hands on a camera of my own and began to practice. When I first learned to balance the magic triangle of shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, my preferred subject was my daughter and youngest child– my Juliana.
I could not have picked a cuter and more motivating subject to capture. After learning the fundamentals of photography, I began experimenting with the less tangible skills my photography books rarely mentioned: emotion, connection, and meaning. The portraits I took of my young daughter were founded in wonder at this little person growing before my very eyes– and an impending fear about the future she would inherit from the failures of past generations.
When I felt confident enough to photograph people on my travels, I brought that same sense of connection, compassion, and urgency. I wanted to create images that would give back to communities and help safeguard their future by protecting our planet’s living ecosystems. I advocate for photography with purpose because it is how we will make the world healthier and safer, but I also believe it creates images that are much more compelling and beautiful.
If you have ever found yourself questioning your life path or want to break into the world of photography, I have one piece of advice for you from my own experiences: do what you love, but do it loudly and with all the passion in your heart. If you are still determining what your passion is, be patient. I only discovered photography after I had long since graduated with a degree in the marine sciences and was the mother of two children of my own, plus a beloved stepson. In truth, I never felt the urge to pick up a camera until I had something to say and something precious to protect– that was when I became an artist.
Thank you again for being on this journey with me.