Artist Feature #4 – Richard Bernabe

ART-IS-IN by Chriselda Barretto

About Richard Bernabe

Richard Bernabe is an internationally-renowned nature, wildlife, and travel photographer as well as widely-published author from the United States. His passion for adventure has been the driving force behind his life’s quest to capture the moods and character of the world’s most amazing places, from Africa to the Amazon to the Arctic and countless places in between.

Editorial clients include National Geographic, The New York Times, Time, Audubon, The BBC, The World Wildlife Fund, National Parks, Outdoor Photographer, and many others. Corporate clients include Canon, Patagonia, Orvis, REI, Apple, Microsoft, American Express, and more.

Richard was named one of the “Top 30 Influential Photographers on the Web” by the Huffington Post and included in the “20 Photographers Changing the World Through Social Media” by Influence Digest. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than 1 million social media followers.

Richard is a highly sought-after teacher and public speaker who accepts many invitations from around the world each year in order to help educate others on matters of photography, adventure travel, and our natural world.

A group of Atlantic puffins (Fratercula arctica) huddled along a sea cliff at Dyrholaey, Iceland

Hi Richard, you are an internationally acclaimed photographer, book author, educator, and keynote speaker. Quite an amazing portfolio you have there! But tell us which one speaks to you the most and why?

I would have to say photography, out of everything mentioned above. It’s at the core of my business and my one true passion. In particular, wildlife and wild places are the subjects that inspire me most and speak to me as an artist.

I know that the current focus of your work involves Earth’s endangered species and African wildlife conservation. Could you tell us a bit more about this, specifically why did you choose this aspect and have there been any obstacles or interesting stories from this part of your journey?

Well, given the answer above about where I draw my inspiration, it’s heartbreaking to see our animals disappearing before my eyes. 70 percent of our African megafauna has disappeared over the past 50 years. Let that statistic sink in for just a minute. And I’m not going to speak out and lend my voice in trying to save what we have left? How could I not? I’m particularly disgusted by the greed and stupidity exhibited in humans when in comes to wildlife poaching and the barbaric nature of trophy hunting. It sickens and depresses me.

Alaskan brown bear in late evening light, Lake Clark national Park, Alaska

Your art and photography are stunning, dynamic, eye-catching and so “real“. Tell us about how you go about getting the still that you want and your art style or process.

Thank you. Well, I am trying to evoke some sort of emotion from my viewers. If I can make them feel something – tranquility, peace, power, awe, majesty, melancholy, sadness, ANYTHING really – then I feel I’ve done my job as an artist. In order to do that though, I need to genuinely feel something myself at the time of the capture. I need to be truly inspired when the image is created. It’s not something I can fake.  When I pick up a camera, my mindset needs to be receptive to feeling something so I can translate these emotions through my chosen medium, photography, where others can feel like they’re behind my camera as well, experiencing the scene vicariously through me. 

Where does your inspiration come from?

My gut level emotional reaction to exotic, wild places, and the wild creatures and people that live there. My initial, emotional response to a subject or scene is the core around which I build my image. That’s the heart and soul of the photograph. That’s the energy. Without it, I’m just making pretty pictures like the millions of others out there who own expensive cameras.

Giraffes reflected in sunset light, Etosha National Park, Namibia

Have there been other artists/role-models or books that played a key role on your artistic journey? 

There have been too many photographers who have influenced me to some degree to name here. The influence of the late Galen Rowell was at the fore when I was initially learning and growing as a young photographer and artist, especially his writing in books like Mountain Light and his monthly columns in Outdoor Photographer magazine. 

Now I find artistic inspiration in other places such as the works of master painters, music, writing, and other forms of creative expression. There are examples all around us in our daily lives if we pay attention.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?

My biggest challenge is staying focused and conserving my time. In addition to photography and traveling, I’m also running a business and its day-to-day demands can suck a ton of creative energy from my life. I have learned to say no to requests and impositions on my time that in the past I couldn’t or didn’t do. 

Coastal seastack formations of Reynisdrangar near Vik, Iceland

Which project/work has given you the most satisfaction from all your endeavors?

As I stated above, I try to make an emotional connection between my photography subjects and my viewers with me being the conduit. This is essential to creating a successful image, in my opinion. So when I do create a compelling image of a threatened or endangered animal, for example, and my viewers are able to connect emotionally and empathetically, I get satisfaction in knowing that my photograph, if even in a small way, might help in its ultimate survival. Our wildlife needs as many constituents as possible and if my images can help in that regard, it provides additional satisfaction above and beyond just the joy in creating.

How has art impacted your life?

It’s enabled me to see – to really see – the world around me in a different way. It’s opened me up emotionally as well and taught me how to express myself better on a personal level. That’s something that I probably wasn’t able to do very well when I was younger or before art became the central part of my life. 

Gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua), Paradise Bay, Antarctica

Tell us about your last work.

My last major piece of work was writing a book, Wildlife Photography: From First Principles to Professional Results. It’s basically a how-to book on wildlife photography with guides to traveling and where to travel for wildlife photography. It went on sale in October of last year and I’m told it’s doing well commercially. 

What is your current WIP?

My current personal projects involve traveling and pursuing wildlife that are threatened by illegal poaching and trophy hunting. That will be an ongoing project for many years and will, unfortunately, never end. I will also be doing speaking events, photography assignments and leading photo workshops and tours all over the world.

Gray langur monkeys (Semnopithecus entellus) Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka

What does the future look like for you and your art?

I just want to pursue photography subjects that inspire me. That’s my guide. If at some point my interests shift to other avenues, then my photography will follow those paths. It’s that simple. I have no desire to focus on anything that I am ambivalent about or doesn’t inspire me. For example, I have never photographed a wedding and no amount of money can motivate me to do it. 

Any words of advice to aspiring artists?

If you must choose a career in a creative field such as art or photography, do it for love – not money or fame or public recognition. 

Iguazu Falls and the Devils Throat, Iguazu National Park, Brazil and Argentina.

Richard you lead photography classes and workshops for photo hobbyists and fellow travellers. Could you give us some more information on this?

I lead photography workshops and tours all over the world. More information can be found here: https://www.richardbernabe.com/workshops 

How can our readers contact you and find your amazing art/books?

The best and easiest way to contact me is through my website, www.richardbernabe.com.

Richard Bernabe

An Artist Feature by Chriselda Barretto

Signup to receive a reminder to my next Artist Feature on ART-IS-IN

Contact : Chriselda Barretto

Check out more projects by Chriselda Barretto :

Her Blog – chriselda.blog

Her Podcast – The 3 Pillars

Her Books

The Dig

ART-IS-IN

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s