The Amazon Rainforest Photographer
Photographer | Filmmaker | Environmentalist | Activist | Conservationist
Mark is considered as the Amazon rainforest photographer. He is the visionary behind the images featured on our Naturers Wilderness Project highlighting our Ecuador Rainforest Eternal positive impact project. Mark is a British photographer from Jersey, now based in Quito, Ecuador, who has the Andes mountains, the Amazon and the Galapagos on his doorstep. After years of working in television, Mark found his calling in documentary photography, illuminating global issues and giving indigenous communities a voice and sharing their colourful culture with the world.
Hi Mark, thank you for all of the amazing work you are creating. We would love to ask you a few questions to understand you and your work in greater depth.
What is it about Ecuador in particular that you love so much?
Ecuador is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, it houses the Galapagos, the Andes & the Amazon in such a small area of land. Throughout the year you can watch the humpback whales breaching, the spectacled bear feasting, and baby turtles hatching. All within a days drive. It's truly spectacular.
What sparked your interest in photography?
I've had a camera in hand since the age of 11. Back then skateboarding was my life. One day my brother and I went into the local skateshop and asked to be sponsored. They advised us to make a portfolio & skate video, and from then onwards I documented everything we did. Paid off, as my brother's now a professional skateboarder, and I, a professional photographer!
What are your main goals with your photography?
Through my work I try to capture life as it is in the Amazon. Give indigenous peoples a voice and educate those that aren't fortunate enough to come and hear it themselves.
How were you able to gain trust and visit remote Amazon Communities?
It wasn't an easy road, that's for sure. I quit my job as an ITV cameraman in the UK, and moved to Ecuador with the intention of documenting life in the Amazon. Quickly realised that I had no experience in the jungle, couldn't speak Spanish and had no portfolio to show. After a lot of searching, I found one startup NGO that invited me unpaid. After a year of intensively learning Spanish and working for free, I built a strong enough portfolio to send to clients and the dream was finally becoming reality but then the pandemic arrived in South America… Severely struggled - I couldn't even afford food, let alone rent. Times were hard but towards the end of 2021 things finally picked up and I managed to create the best work of my career. The rest is a story yet to be told.
As a photographer, how do you capture emotion and show the importance of conservation issues?
Listen, Rapport, Observe, Capture. Planning is hugely important. Often I will have an image in my mind for a year before the moment arises to capture it. 95% of my work is observing and waiting for the moment and allowing the subjects to be comfortable with me and 5% is actually taking the photo. For example, on a recent assignment, I had an image in my mind the whole trip, but waited until the final hour, days later to take the shot. It's extremely important that you feel a connection with the person and allow them to trust you, rather than going in taking the shot and leaving.
In your opinion, what poses the largest threat to conservation? And what can be done about it?
Honestly, the largest threat is humanity's ignorance. Planet Earth is one. We are all connected, everything we do in society shapes the Earth; the clothes we wear, the bank we use, the food we eat, our choice of transport even our WIFI usage and how many junk emails are being sent to your inbox impacts our environment. But we live in a societal system that makes our footprint near impossible to meet Net Zero.
What can be done?
A huge societal change. On a small scale, each person needs to change their habitual ways and influence the next person, which in turn grows in numbers so that our hard of hearing governments listen and make systemic change on a mass scale. I mean, if Leo DiCaprio can't do it with a movie about climate change, who can? I remain optimistic and continue fighting because giving up hope solves nothing.
Are there any areas of photography, or any particular stories, you would still like to explore?
Sure, there is so much that a photographer could cover but for me, once I've released my book on the Ecuadorian Amazon, I'd like to move into the Andes region and begin documenting the Indigenous communities in the mountains and share their colourful culture. I already have moodboards and story ideas ready for when that day arrives.
Who was your biggest inspiration growing up?
Growing up I always wanted to be a ZooKeeper. Animals fascinated me. Gerald Durrell was a big inspiration of mine, he founded Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust on the island I grew up in, Jersey. They do incredible projects around the world so I was introduced to the topic of Conservation from a young age.
Is there anything that you are yet to photograph but would like to?
I haven’t covered much about the Oil devastation, just people's stories of it. It’s always been an important topic to cover, but when I'm on assignment it's been for other projects and it can be fairly dangerous entering those private spaces, so the right planning is needed, along with a force of Indigenous Peoples to cover my back if things get hairy.
What do you enjoy most about photography? Are there any drawbacks?
Having a freelance creative job has been a journey to say the least. Creativity and motivation are rivals. I have learned to realise that we can't be creative ALL the time. So much so that time to reflect and do nothing is part of my job description and vital for my progression because without opening the headspace to relax, creatives are unable to access the creative cloud, a space where all ideas exist. Meditation had been a powerful tool for me to balance this with the demands of real life.
How do you feel at one with nature?
I feel at one with nature when I don’t separate myself from it. In amazonian tongues the word “nature” doesn’t exist. Simply because they 'are'. They are woven into the beautiful complexity of life and do not consider themselves to be outside of nature. So when we begin to say things like “I’m going to spend the weekend in nature” it feeds the monster and fortifies the belief that we don’t form a part of the 3D puzzle that is life.
What does our Naturers community mean to you? What would you like to see happen?
I would love Naturers to create a tight community of environmentalists, each skilled in their own field to unite their passion and become a force to be reckoned with.
Which is your favourite animal, and why?
The animal I most associate myself with is a Monkey, some could say that it's my spirit animal. Even when I first moved to Ecuador, my chosen nickname was 'Mono' meaning monkey in Spanish.
Which is your favourite Gemma Roe piece and why?
High fashion is destroying the homes of innocent people, our guardians of the forests. The concept behind Gemma Roe is a dream for those wanting to stay fashionable but in a sustainable manner. My favourite is the butterfly ring.