Feature

Wired to nature

Green Lifestyle magazine

We chat to inspirational wildlife photographer Steve Parish about his driving forces, and find there are more similarities than differences between us all.

Steve-Parish

Renowned photographer Steve Parish.

The-Coast

All the nature images here are from Steve Parish’s new Inspired By Nature eight-book series that features a combination of Australian wilderness photos and carefully chosen phrases. The aim of the books is to help people connect with the natural world, and to educate and inspire. More Photos

Frog
Feather
butterfly

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Submerged in an aquatic wonderland off the north coast of Kangaroo Island, photographer Igor Oak handed Steve Parish a camera. The trigger was pulled – rather nonchalantly – and there was a fish, frozen in time. He still has that photo, his very first, the framing of a moment which ignited his passion for photography and exposed an insatiable thirst for nature.

Growing up in Adelaide in the late 1950s, a long way from today’s photo-dense, tech-savvy society, Steve’s early experience of photography was limited to the pages of National Geographic. “There were no camera shops on street corners, or bookshops,” he reminisces, “there were gun shops."

A keen spear fisherman in his youth, Steve was recruited to catch for a scientific expedition run by the South Australian Museum. It was here that he encountered Oak, a pioneer in Australian underwater conservation photography. He speaks warmly of his initial photographic foray, which he stumbled upon entirely by chance.

“Oak later put it on the screen and made an announcement that this was my very first photograph. Everybody applauded. Being a young man who had a very low self-esteem, it was that moment in time where I evolved to become interested in photography. I was already extremely interested in fish. What a reaction!”

Now himself a conservationist and renowned photographer, Steve strives to teach empathy and impart inspiration through a coupling of photography and words. His wife, Kate Prentice, writes the body text of their Inspired by Nature books, a series aiming to engage people with the natural world. “The books are really an extension of what we’ve been doing for a long time,” he explains. “The marriage of nature to human emotion, as it relates to our everyday lives… looking at empathy, looking at compassion, looking at the various challenges, at dealing with anxiety."

“It has been a mantra of mine for a very long time that nature can provide us with everything. Body, mind, spirit. Stimulation… we are, all of us, genetically wired to nature.”

Steve raises concerns about the negativity environmental activism now has associated with it, created through mainstream media and political discourse. He gives the carbon pricing scheme to us as an example, saying that by lumping a negative word like ‘tax’ in with the green movement, he believes the importance of the latter becomes blurred and its motives misinterpreted.

It seems that Steve’s love for the environment and passion for photography have fueled one another, the drive for the latter moving him in 1975 beyond the watery world to drier pursuits. “Until then, I didn’t have the foggiest interest in what happened terrestrially,” he laughs.

In 2011, floods devastated Steve on both an economic and personal level. Reaching the 1.5 m mark in his Queensland warehouse, dirty water destroyed a large portion of his stock and more than 160,000 images. That event, coupled with the closure of book shops owing him money, forced his company into receivership – Steve even lost his house.

But things are looking up. With the release of the Inspired by Nature book series, Steve hopes to pay tribute to the mutually beneficial relationship people can have with nature. He is also striving to share his knowledge by running workshops through Nature Connect where photographic technique and experiential wisdom are passed on to those willing to learn more about nature photography. But if you wish to get in contact, don’t try calling. Steve is consciously opposed to mobile phones. “I made the conscious decision a long time ago that I didn’t want to be permanently connected,” he says. “My brand is nature connect – I’d rather be connected to nature.”