Creating a Jungle Studio
Photographer Q & A
What event in your career brought you the moniker of elephant photographer?
A casual invitation from the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF) to "come photograph our elephants" in Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand got me started on this mission to raise awareness about the dwindling numbers of a species. The experience launched my five-year portraiture and video project.
Tell us a bit more about the current state of Asian elephants and their mahouts.
In Thailand, transportation and logging were once the primary occupations for mahouts (keepers) and their elephants. When bans were issued on logging in 1989, many were forced to forage in the city streets. GTAEF created a refuge for the mahouts, their families and the elephants. The foundation's efforts to rescue and care for elephants that have been abandoned, abused or are unable to fend for themselves provides a solution for an entire culture.
How do you go about raising awareness with your imagery?
Proceeds from the sales of my fine art prints help support the mission of GTAEF: to set up a safe haven for abused elephants and provide employment for their good keepers. There's an increase in the conservation activities and every new elephant birth is a celebration, but their numbers are diminishing significantly. I want to do everything I can to help them thrive. In the first year of my project, I created a visual record of the elephants as well as a series of portraits of the mahouts with their elephants. It's difficult not to become sentimental. I need to remain objective and let my photography document the story if I'm ultimately to help the species.
What equipment do you rely on as you travel and document in Thailand?
I use Nikon® cameras and Lowepro bags. Each time I return, I rely on my gear to help capture the images that support my goals. I set up a kind of "jungle" studio with my Lowepro rollers. And I use my Versapack backpack to grab an impromptu moment in the grassland. So far, I've traveled with three bags for the 8,000-mile journey that takes me from home to airports to the Asian elephant sanctuaries. I love that Lowepro thinks of everything when they design these bags. They're made of such high quality that I use them in every shooting situation.
To learn more about Carol Stevenson's work, the progress of her Asian elephant project, and read her blog, please visit www.elephantphotographer.com
"Lowepro truly has the needs of the photographer in mind. Since my work takes me from busy airports to remote locations, I need camera bags that are versatile and durable. With my Lowepro rollers, I can set up a complete "jungle" studio or grab an impromptu shot in the grassland. My Pro Roller x300 even has the distinction of traveling in a cargo hold 30 times with no damage to it or my equipment."
The Elephant Photographer
Carol Stevenson is a fine art nature and travel photographer. Her latest work features portraiture of the Asian elephant, a conservation project in conjunction with the Golden Triangle Elephant Foundation, Thailand. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area of California and serves on the board of the American Society of Media Photographers for Northern California.