UN Photographer Turns to Nature
Photographer Q & A
Describe the moment or event that inspired your decision to become a photographer.
I actually stumbled into photography. I won a photography award while working at the United Nations on the clerical staff at the Office of Technical Co-operation. The UN photo department asked me if I wanted to be trained in the darkroom and work as a technician. I worked as a darkroom technician for six years. I won the grand prize at photokina in Germany in 1978. After that, the chief of the photo unit asked me to go on mission to South Lebanon and Israel to cover the conflict and record the UN peace keeping forces.
What is your favorite photography tip to share with other photographers?
The "stop, look and listen" basic philosophy of Zen. That has made me a better photographer. Antoine de Saint-Exupery in his book The Little Prince says, "The essential things in life are seen not with the eyes, but with the heart."
Favorite photography book and why?
In the early 70's when I was working in the darkroom as a printer, someone showed me the book Henri Cartier-Bresson and the Artless Art. That is what motivated me to become a photographer.
Most unusual item you keep in your camera bag?
I carry a Rudraksha seed for good luck. (Editor's note: The seeds from a Rudraksha tree are traditionally used as prayer beads in Hinduism.)
What's the best advice you ever received from a fellow photographer?
When you like a scene, just do not stop after taking one shot from the angle in which you first saw the scene. Try to move around the scene as it may look better from another angle.
Name a geographical place that you'd love to return to or go to for an assignment.
Kashmir. I have been there at least 13 times. I can still go back and find new things to photograph.
What photography project or assignment has been most meaningful for you and why?
My book The Vale of Kashmir is my favorite work.
If you could publish another book on any photographic subject, what would it be?
Abstracts in nature.
What's in your camera bag right now?
I am thinking of switching my gear that I had been using for the last 12 years. I was using Olympus cameras and their four-third systems. I think I am leaning towards a full frame camera and I like the Sony cameras and lenses. I was with Minolta system for more than 20 years prior to Olympus. I still have some of their prime lenses.
See the stunning wildlife, portrait and landscape imagery of John Isaac on his web site. Read more about his critically acclaimed book, The Vale of Kashmir. And watch a podcast of John's photography lecture, "Wish You Were Here", at the George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film. We think you'll get inspired by this well-traveled and well-respected artist.
John Isaac's Lowepro gear:
John Isaac:Web Site
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
George Eastman House
After retiring as the chief of the photo unit at the United Nations in 1998, John Isaac slowly turned his attention away from the world's crises and toward nature and wildlife photography. He started by returning to one of his passions—helping to save the tigers of his native India—something he didn't have much time for in the past. One of his favorite places to visit is Ranthambore National Park in southeastern Rajasthan. During several trips to Ranthambore, as well as other reserves in India, John documented the conservation efforts taking place. He plans to compile a once-in-a-lifetime book about tigers.
To further his discoveries and photograph more species of mammals and birds, John traveled to Kenya, South Africa, Namibia, Alaska, Bosque del Apache (in New Mexico), Yellowstone and Grand Canyon National Parks. John's imagery has received many accolades, including a PMDA Photographer of the Year award, a photokina gold medal, and the recent distinction of having a collection of his life's work as a part of the permanent collection at Kodak's George Eastman House in Rochester, New York.