Award-winning Australian Photographer Steve Parish is currently re-photographing Australia for a new range of Australiana Books and Natural History Books. You can read about his current travels here. To see what Steve is up to on facebook, click here. Or to read about Steve’s success, see below.
Steve Parish was introduced to nature through the underwater world at age nine, and soon became a keen spearfishing enthusiast. During the fifties and sixties, Australians’ attitude to the environment was vastly different to what it is today. “When I was a kid, there were gun shops on every city street corner. Today, book and camera shops line the streets,”Parish explains.
Steve was only sixteen when he met his mentor, underwater photographer Igo Oak. It was then that his fascination with marine life was transferred from hunting with a spear gun to recording his discoveries on film. Despite being young and inexperienced, the idea of being able to share his discoveries with others was captivating; although his earliest efforts were on the blurry side.
Fortunately, he persevered. Determination was something Steve was later to develop in spades when, in 1963, at the tender age of eighteen, he enrolled as a navy diver for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). “In the navy, giving up was simply not tolerated,” Parish laughs. He had little choice but to struggle through the difficult, no-nonsense training to take up a position as a Search and Rescue Diver at Jervis Bay in southern New South Wales. He then joined the New South Wales Underwater Research Group, a band of extremely enthusiastic underwater naturalists who collected and photographed specimens for the Australian Museum. Encouraged by senior museum staff, Parish and his colleagues all felt a pioneering spirit — discovering and recording numerous marine species that were new to science. It was an exhilarating time for Steve.
Ever since this experience, Steve Parish has been inspiring others. First, he travelled the continent as a photojournalist creating books on the Great Dividing Range, the River Murray, the Outback and Kakadu for a major Australian publisher. Then he started his own company, Steve Parish Publishing, on New Year’s Day 1985. For Steve, inspiring others and watching them become involved in promoting conservation is his greatest reward.
In 1974, Steve resigned from the RAN and headed north, where he joined the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service as a wildlife photographer. For the next five years, he had the fantastic opportunity of working with the department’s specialist scientists to photograph and document a range of animals from across Queensland’s diverse habitats. No longer was his focus entirely on marine life; his cameras now recorded birds, mammals, reptiles and frogs. Following five years of this work, Steve resigned to freelance Australia-wide.
“After three years on the road celebrating this spectacular nation I wanted to share what I’d discovered with others — not just other Australians, but with people all around the world,” Parish enthuses.
“It truly was astonishing, the depth and breadth of this land. I really felt a calling to show it to others; to ensure that we not only appreciated what we have down here, down under, but that we were willing to protect it, too. At the time I started Steve Parish Publishing, environmental issues were only just coming to the fore. People were beginning to question what we were doing to nature. I still feel that nature is under attack and it is enormously frustrating that we continue to march hell-bent on destroying what we love and what is necessary for us” — both spiritually and materially — as it is for all life forms.
“Educating others was my primary objective in starting the company. It wasn’t just about taking spectacular images, although that is extremely rewarding, too. It was about promoting an understanding for the importance of nature. The first step has to be to light a fire in someone — inspire them to learn more, inspire them to genuinely become one with nature, urge them to connect with it and to celebrate its beauty and diversity. Then let’s talk about saving it.”
Unfortunately, Parish implies, few people of his own generation got that message when they were young, so the company’s focus today is on the youth.
“My dream is that this generation can stand up and make a difference and champion nature. In 1992, I decided that to win the war I needed to focus more on the kids. After all, the adults didn’t seem to be listening. The kids are the frontline for the environment now.
So today, my work and my company’s work is very much focussed on encouraging young people to love nature, to live within the natural world, to question and search and discover, and most importantly, to follow their dreams and live their passion. Kids today are very aware. They do care about what is happening to their inheritance, but we all still have so much to learn about Australian wildlife. The war on wildlife is still far from over.”
Australian Photographer Steve Parish FAQ
What motivates you?
SP: I am motivated by a passion for nature. Acknowledging the loss of many of our unique wild places and creatures, my objective, as a photographer and publisher, is to inspire others to fight for their protection.
Do you take all of the photographs in your publications?
SP: I take the majority of photographs we publish in our natural history publications and children’s books; however, we publish the work of a number of other photographers, too. Other photographers and experts, all of whom are credited in our books, often have unique or special collections. These collections can be utilised for books with a specific focus, such as a book entirely about insects or frogs. We also publish books that exclusively feature and promote the work of external photographers, and we are expanding our list to include a growing number of nature photographers.
How many photographs do you have in your photo library?
SP: I have around half a million film and digital images, and all are housed in our photographic library. Of these images, approximately 350,000 are catalogued.
Do you Photoshop your photographs?
SP: All photographs that are reproduced go through digital cleaning, colour adjustment and conversion from RGB to CMYK using programs such as Photoshop. Some images require etching (the removal of the background) or minor adjustments so they can be used across a wide variety of publications.
How often do you work in the field?
SP: Over the forty years that I have been doing field work, my field trips have varied in length from one year to a thirty-minute wander in my bushland backyard. Generally speaking, my year is divided between studio work, during which I edit photographs, assemble publications, research, read and write, and trips around Australia during which I devote my time to photographing the continent’s cities, culture, architecture, habitats, flora and fauna.
What do you like to do to relax?
SP: I like to watch DVDs. Another of my hobbies is film, and I enjoy all kinds of films. I also shoot my own film and edit it.
What is your favourite animal?
SP: Australia’s fifty living kangaroo and wallaby species are of particular interest to me, as are all mammals. Marine fish have been a lifelong interest. The White Shark is probably my number one iconic animal. I used to encounter these fiercely beautiful fish when I was a young spearfisherman.
What is your favourite habitat in Australia?
SP: Probably a nice, shallow coral reef is where I like to be most. My second choice would be heathlands in spring, when all of the glorious wildflowers are blooming.
Do you take photographs in other countries?
SP: No. I am absolutely flat out in Australia. There would never be enough time for me to photograph other places as well. There is still so much to excite me here and so many great natural history and Australiana books to create.
What kind of camera do you use?
SP: For smaller format imaging, mainly of wildlife and pants, I current;y use D3 and D3s Digital Nikons, with a variety of lenses ranging from 10 mm to 1000 mm. For landscape and imaging requiring major enlargement I use the Hasselblad H3DII-50 with most of the systems lenses. Read more.
Do you run photographic classes?
SP: I publish books on photography; however, I do not run regular classes. I sometimes conduct talks or lectures on photography, especially at schools or in association with fauna parks. My speaking engagements will be announced on the events section of this website.