What nature photographer doesn’t nurse the dream of being a National Geographic photographer? For most of us who shoot wildlife and nature, that level of professionalism is an inspiration, but rarely an achievable standard. For Kevin FitzPatrick, it became a reality.
Kevin FitzPatrick has been a member of the Friends of the Nature Center board for six years and a supporter of wildlife conservation for far longer. His dedication to the Nature Center has included not only his support on the board, but his contributions to the outreach media of the Friends. Media – photography in particular – is Kevin’s field of expertise, and he shot many of the beautiful portraits of our animals you have seen. As a conservation photographer, Kevin combines love of the visual arts with a passion for the natural world into a powerful tool of communication.
Kevin’s opportunity to work with National Geographic came through a series of twenty-four hour inventories of species in National Parks called BioBlitzes. National Geographic is documenting some of these BioBlitzes, and Kevin had the opportunity to attend and photograph one in Tuscan, Arizona where he made connections with National Geographic. “I hope to work with them on each of the next five BioBlitzes that National Geographic will be doing in the next five years,” says Kevin. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for me after forty years [of nature photography] to be able to work with an organization like National Geographic.”
Photography is a cord that extends throughout Kevin’s life. “In 1972, I had a chance to go to Ireland where my family is from. I really wanted to document Ireland, but didn’t have a camera at the time. I finally got a hold of one, and that was my first attempt – spending two or three months in Ireland, photographing.” It was his wife who introduced him to photographing wild things. “She loved wildflowers, and I had the camera, so we started photographing wildflowers. It was the first thing I did in terms of nature photography.”
Conservation became a focus of Kevin’s photography when he would return to wild places he loved to photograph, “and they just weren’t there anymore.” Connections with friends who used photography to educate and communicate the need for preservation and conservation encouraged Kevin to steer his own art in the same direction. “Not all nature photographers are conservation photographers,” he says. Conservation photographers “use their pictures to tell the story” of places and species that need help. Organizations such as the League of Conservation Photographers use their art to document areas in danger. They use this footage in public awareness campaigns, and their work has even appeared in the halls of congress. Conservation photography is about more than just the beauty of the natural world; it is intended to call attention to the fragility of it, and how we play a roll in protecting it.
Does Kevin have a favorite animal at the Nature Center? “Yes, I do – the red and gray wolves. Wolves have gotten such a bad break. They’re all wonderful characters in their own right, and beautiful animals. Working with people who know wolves and getting the word out to the general public about wolves and how precious they are as a resource – it’s nice for me to be able to do.”
With a talented eye and a passion for the natural world, Kevin has achieved a life long dream – but he’s done more than that. With each otter portrait, each landscape, each detailed look into the intricacies of the microscopic world, Kevin compels his audience to consider what about our world is worth protecting.
And what nature photographer doesn’t have the same dream?
All photos courtesy Kevin FitzPatrick