JONATHAN Z LEE
Conservation Partner - African Parks Network
Now Exhibiting - Nova Fine Art UK
NHM Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2019, 2020 Finalist
Publications - National Geographic, Vanity Fair UK, BBC Earth
I believe that every single child loves animals. That love takes many forms: affection, fascination, admiration. The animal kingdom is known to us from our first stuffed toy, and reinforced when we learn the alphabet - there simply isn't a better heuristic than Z is for Zebra is there?
Some people never outgrow that love, and I am one of those people. Even as other interests and passions jostle for space in the heart and in the mind, for me nothing else comes close to being in the natural world. Obsessing over nature documentaries led to a library full of stories about fantastic beasts, then to hours spent staring into fish tanks, to hours of conversations with the family dog, and eventually, a gradual accumulation of unforgettable wild encounters.
The call of the wild never ceased ringing in my ears. I've lived all over the world: Singapore, Beijing, Hong Kong, California, Taiwan, Florence, and New York, but I've never felt more at home than when I'm immersed in the natural world. In more recent years, I have realized that there was no better way to spend my time, energy, and resources than to answer the call, and to do so wholeheartedly and relentlessly, all the while fulfilling a deep urge to reveal the souls of the creatures we share this planet with.
It helps that I was always handy with a camera, picked up no doubt from my father, who, to my great annoyance back then, spent far too long composing each family shot with great care. I guess I should apologize now for ruining it every time with my goofy faces and incessant fidgeting.
It also helps that during this quest of mine I have met so many amazing people who have supported and encouraged me, and also many fantastic photographers whose works I deeply admire. None more so than David Yarrow, a true master of the craft, an endless source of inspiration and influence, and someone I am fortunate to call a dear friend. In addition to David, my approach to photography has been shaped by brilliant artists such as Sebastião Salgado, Tim Flach, and Frans Lanting, who portray the natural world with such class, and whose works evoke powerful emotions.
I think of what I do as a work of love first, and a work of art second. But I am cursed with being a perfectionist in everything that I do, and I suppose I am therefore well suited for this craft. I am honored that my work now hangs in homes across four continents, has been published by the likes of National Geographic, BBC Earth, and Vanity Fair, and shares gallery space with other tremendous artists. The goal has always been to give back, and thanks to you, we have raised over $20,000 for wildlife conservation efforts in the last year, most notably with my primary conservation partner, African Parks Network. I believe art has a powerful role to play in protecting our planet's future.
I cannot impart how I feel upon another, but I believe it can be pieced together through the fragments captured here. The images selected for each collection have been specifically assembled for this purpose.
I have a fairly simple offering - feelings and thoughts about the creatures we share our planet with. I hope it will do some good for them
This is how I see them.
This is how they made me feel.
This is Life on Earth.