This is the second in a series of posts in which AIPP photographers and videographers reflect on their creative journey, their inspirations, and the power of the image. In this entry, David Stowe shares how his love of nature motivates his work, the images that have affected him, and his thoughts on how photography can change hearts and minds.
What are your first memories of wanting to be a photographer?
For most of my school life I think I had assumed I would be an engineer like my father. It wasn’t until the last two years of high school (after having done work experience as an engineer) that I started doing art. I think my first memories of wanting to get into photography was while I was in late high school and taking some photos (on film of course) of some tigers at the zoo. They were in the shade and the camera exposed for the bright sunlit areas making the tigers impossible to see. I didn’t understand what had happened so I sought help to work out how to fix it. It wasn’t until I was actually at Uni studying a Bachelor of Visual Arts that I realised I wasn’t as good a wildlife illustrator as I thought I was, and that it seemed there were more possibilities in terms of a career in photography. I didn’t have any illusions that the life of a ‘true artist’ was glamorous, and I wanted to be able to put food on the table.
What motivates or inspires your photography?
Early on my motivation started with Creation – the landscape. For me it was my faith and the desire to show the wonder of creation; attempting to use my gifts to serve God. That still remains although I now find myself more focused and inspired by the creatures within the landscape – especially birds.
How do you maintain this motivation / inspiration / creative impulse?
Like anything I think motivation, inspiration, and creativity all flow in and out of our lives. I don’t always feel inspired, and often struggle with the feeling of not being creative enough. But the most important way out of these times is to keep thinking about what you could do differently. Look around and try to find different ways of seeing. As soon as we think we know all we need to know, we’ve failed.
Is there a division or interrelation between your personal photography and your photographic business?
Absolutely an interrelation. I’ve always loved capturing images whether I am getting paid for it or not. I always want to have a camera with me and I am constantly ‘looking’ through the lens and wondering at opportunities as I drive past cool locations or situations. I have always loved incorporating the landscape into my wedding work with Society Photography, but now running Flock Wildlife as well, it’s an absolute joy to be able to teach other people how to capture better bird and wildlife images. Sharing my personal passion with other people is incredibly rewarding. I love being able to impart all that I have learnt to others and help them to ‘see’ nature.
Can photography change the world and the lives of others? How do you seek for your photography to do this?
I think photography has already changed the world and lives of many people, and it continues to do so now more than ever. Society has an insatiable appetite for imagery these days. Being able to tell a story about something that people might not know about is so important. In the conservation world, images are incredibly powerful in bringing the beauty and plight of threatened species to the masses. Without photography, people often wouldn’t have any knowledge or interaction with nature – especially rarer species. If a tree falls in the forest and no-one was there to hear or see it, then no-one would care. But if a tree falls and we capture images that show the importance of that tree – the sadness, the devastation, and the effect that tree falling has on the animals that rely on it for survival; then some people will care very much. Some will never care, but others may care so much that they will strive to enact change. I think my simplest goal is to capture images that help people to engage with nature. Because it’s only when we engage with something that we seek to understand it, seek to care for it, and strive to change those things that threaten it.
Is there an image that has changed you or affected you?
There are so many images that have affected me and still affect me. An early one was I remember was being shown the famous ‘Napalm Girl’ image captured by Nick Ut during the Vietnam War while I was at university. I remember wondering how anyone could photograph something so terrible, but then realising how powerful that image became in changing the course of the war, and also how Nick didn’t simply take the photos; he stopped, poured water on the girl and took her (and others) to a hospital. It was such an incredibly powerful and moving story.
Peter Dombrovskis’ ‘Morning Mist, Rock Island Bend, Franklin River’ didn’t mean much to me until years after it was taken and I was old enough to appreciate both its beauty, but also its importance in showcasing what the world was at risk of losing in the early 1980s when the government wanted to dam the Franklin River in Tasmania. I do recall the ‘No Dams’ bumper stickers at the time, but later on when I discovered the beauty of Dombrovskis’ landscapes, it certainly changed my thoughts on how important simply a ‘pretty picture’ can be. Today there are so many talented photographers just in Australia alone, capturing images that seek to change people’s perspective on our planet and all that lives on it. Photographers like Doug Gimesy who has a wonderful talent for photojournalistic images that tug at our heart strings – a baby possum left in the pouch of its road-killed parent, a tree full of Flying Foxes desperately heat stressed and on the edge of life.
However there are a lot of images that affect me in a more positive way and simply make me feel good to be alive; images that cause me to simply sit in wonder of all the beauty that is around us every day.
David Stowe is a photographer based in Sydney, Australia. While photographing people and weddings through Society Photography is his main profession, his real passion is for wildlife and the environment, with a special focus on birds. He has travelled all over Australia and beyond capturing images of wildlife, and has been recognised in a number of awards, including being crowned the overall 2015 ANZANG Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year. He’s a passionate member of the AIPP and is a three-time winner of AIPP NSW Nature Photographer of the Year. Dave has judged at the state and national AIPP awards. In recent years he has become focused on education and teaching others about photography and how to get better images of birds and wildlife. Along with his mate Henry Cook, he started Flock Wildlife Tours to further that vision.