Vanguard is pleased to announce that Julie Maher has joined the Vanguard Professionals team. Julie Larsen Maher is the sixth staff photographer appointed by the Wildlife Conservation Society since its founding in 1895. She is also the first woman to hold the position. Julie takes photos at WCS’s five New York-based wildlife parks including the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, New York Aquarium, Prospect Park Zoo, and Queens Zoo. She also travels to remote field locations to photograph some of the world’s leading conservationists, and the culture, wildlife, and wild lands that they aim to protect in more than 60 countries. Julie also edits the WCS Wild View blog.
Can you tell us about the first time you picked up a camera? What drew you to become a professional photographer?
I have always loved photography. I was an art director for years before switching careers about a decade ago to become the Wildlife Conservation Society’s staff photographer. I am only the sixth person to hold this position in 119 years – and the first woman! From my art direction days, I know the value of good visuals. Now, I get to take them and write about them. I work with WCS zoo and field staff to shoot at the five wildlife parks in New York and at some of our 500 sites in 60-plus nations around the world.
How did you get involved with the WCS and the Bronx Zoo? Can you describe what you do for each of them?
The Bronx Zoo is one of five wildlife parks operated by the Wildlife Conservation Society. I started as the art director in WCS’s Publications department and switched jobs about 10 years ago. I am now the WCS staff photographer. I also curate a new photo blog that is part of our digital programming called Wild View where we showcase wonderful images and first-person accounts of work being done across the organization. Wild View also has a public component where users can submit photos to assignments we post.
Recently, you've been working in the field of photographing elephants. Can you tell us about the 96 Elephants Campaign?
On average, 96 elephants are killed every day in Africa. The Wildlife Conservation Society and its partners aim to stop the killing, stop the trafficking, and stop the demand. My assignment for the campaign was a mammoth one: Go to Kenya and photograph African elephants. Entire families of elephants are being slaughtered for their ivory. The global appetite to own trinkets carved from elephant tusks has dealt a crushing blow to their numbers in the forests and savannahs of Africa. I took photos of elephants that show their lives together; photos that I hope will inspire people to save 96 elephants every day.
What's your favorite story from the field? Your favorite kind of wildlife to photograph?
I don’t have a favorite animal, I love them all – each one is unique. That’s the best part, learning something new about each species while photographing them.
Which photo of yours do you think of as your best triumph?
My biggest triumph is taking photos that bring a story to life from parts of the world that many may never get to. People want to save what they can see. Photographing nature and our efforts to protect it, that’s the most important part of my work.
What gear is essential to your work?
I need good gear with great performance. For cameras, I’ve been using Nikon for years - Nikon D4, Nikon1 AW1, Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8, Nikon 60mm f/2.8, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6, Nikon 200-400mm f/4, Nikon 2x Teleconverter, Nikon 1 Lenses, Nikon SB 910 Speedlights, Nikon R1C1 Close-up Speedlight Kit, Lite Panels LED Lights.
For everything else, Vanguard has awesome binoculars, bags, and tripods - I use The Heralder 46, Endeavor ED II binoculars, the ABEO AP-284 monopod, the TBH-250 & BBH-200 ball heads, and the MZ-82425C Monocular, among others. I need gear that will hold up in various conditions and that can travel well.
Do you have any words of advice for aspiring photographers out there?
Keep shooting! There are more opportunities now than ever before to be published.
All photos courtesy of Julie Larsen Maher (c) Wildlife Conservation Society.
See Julie's work on Wild View.