Please introduce yourself. Who are you? Where did you grow up? Where do you live?
Jeff: I am a native Californian and was raised in Niles. After college I was hired as an art teacher in the San Ramon Valley School District, where I taught art for 38 years. I am currently living in Pleasant Hill.
Wendy: I am also a California native and was born in San Francisco and was raised in the Bay Area. After college I moved to Alaska for a few years and then returned to the East Bay. I am currently living in Pleasant Hill.
Tell us more about what you create. What style(s) do you work in, mediums, etc.
Jeff’s degree is in Fine Arts, so painting and drawing are an ongoing passion. Wendy has a Master’s in Educational Leadership, but we both have a love for wildlife photography and strive to capture images that evoke emotion from our viewers. We are purists and do not alter images nor bait subjects to capture our shots.
Where can we find your art besides at 4th Street?
Our website: www.jeffandwendyphotography.com
How long have you been creating?
The photography bug bit us both at a young age. Wendy’s first camera was a Kodak Instamatic! We have been shooting together since 1980 and spend hours each week shooting and studying the art of photography. Jeff has done fine art since high school and it continues to be an integral part of his life.
When you're not making your art, what do you do?
We are both very committed to conservation causes and are actively involved in a variety of issues. Wendy has volunteered at the Lindsay Wildlife Hospital since 1985 and also serves as a wildlife educator. We both have done homecare for injured wildlife with a goal of returning them to the wild. We are involved in the Least Tern Project and have recently have become involved in supporting The River Otter Ecology Project. We are involved in protecting the grizzly bears from trophy hunting and also working on ways to make people more aware of poaching and loss of habitat in Africa and South America.
Is creativity a luxury or necessity for you? Tell us more about that.
Creativity is both a luxury and a necessity for both of us. We use our photography as a voice for wildlife and conservation. Each of our photos tells a story and we devote time to educating people about the animals we photograph. It is a luxury because wildlife photography inspires us to travel and devote time to research the subjects we want to shoot.
What obstacles have you had to overcome to lead a creative life?
We are both very fortunate that we retired from professions with a pension. It was a challenge to grow our photo business while working full-time. Now that we are both retired we can devote all of our time to the art of photography. Our biggest obstacle was making the change from film to digital photography!
Did someone in your family, a friend or teacher introduce you to your creative side or have they helped you along the way?
We have a very unique relationship in that we can critique one another’s photographs and push our practice. We have so many supportive friends and family members, who have encouraged us to pursue our love of wildlife photography. We have to give Sebastian Kennerknecht credit for truly pushing us to take risks with our camera settings and look at photography in a totally different way. He is also a conservation photographer and has devoted his life to conservation issues involving wild cats. Gary Crabbe, who is a phenomenal landscape photographer, encouraged us to pursue our passion.
Where do you find inspiration?
What is so amazing about being wildlife photographers is the smallest insects can inspire you just as much as the largest mammals. We are driven by issues-loss of habitat, poaching, negative human impact on native wildlife. We want to use our photographs as a voice for wildlife.
What’s on the horizon for you and what you do?
To keep shooting and continue to perfect our skill set. We want to use our photography to inspire people to become more aware of the importance of sharing the earth and coexisting with all wildlife. We hope our images are something people want to purchase and have in their homes. We want our images to provide a source of enjoyment. We also sell to stock companies and try to capture images that will have a powerful impact on people-these are not necessarily images people would want to display in their homes. Recently we photographed a kill while shooting in Africa-a difficult scene to shoot, but these images captured an unusual scenario. Five male cheetahs that are not siblings, worked as a team to kill a wildebeest-this was a once in a lifetime experience.
What inspiring advice would you give to other creatives be they established or just starting out?
Take risks with your camera, shoot every single day and use your photos to be a voice for those who cannot speak. A powerful photograph can alter an individual’s perspective and help bring about change.
Who are some artists that inspire you?
There are so many superb wildlife photographers, but we are drawn to people who are committed to using their talent to educate people about wildlife and who also support conservation efforts to protect and preserve animal habitat. Galen Rowell, who sadly died in a plane crash many years ago, was an inspiration. Tom Mangelsen walks his talk and does so much to support wildlife causes and is an amazing photographer. Paul Nicklen is an assignment photographer for National Geo and his images are simply amazing! He is a conservation activist and is an inspiration. Ansel Adams was the first photographer to inspire both of us and he still does today!
Anything else you'd like to share?
We are very excited to be a part of 4th Street Fine Art. There is so much talent in this gem of a space.
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