Kevin Mack, Seattle, WA Member Since August 2008 Artist Statement Born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa, I have been fascinated with wildlife for as long as I can remember. My passion for wildlife has influenced nearly every aspect of my personal and professional life. After graduating from Iowa State University with a degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Biology in 1995, I relocated to the Seattle area to take a position at a large wildlife rehabilitation facility. I am still employed there today as a naturalist.
I have always had a strong interest in photographing wild animals, but this interest grew throughout my early years of wildlife rehabilitation work. I have also always been interested in educating others about wildlife, and I felt a strong compulsion to tell the stories of the individual wild animals that I was helping to heal and release. I was asked to write a periodic e-newsletter for my organization in which I included photographs taken both by myself and co-workers. From reader responses to the newsletter, it was clear that compelling photographs played an integral roll in effectively communicating my messages. I purchased a digital SLR camera and set about the task of improving my photography skills.
As my skills improved, my focus of interest shifted to photographing healthy animals in the wild. Working with badly damaged wild animals for 40 hours a week takes an emotional toll. It was therapeutic to get outside as often as possible to see animals that were not in need of any help.
All of the wild animals featured in my galleries were photographed as wild, free-living beings. None of the animals (including the invertebrates) were photographed in a captive situation, and I did not use food, decoys, recorded calls or any other artificial attractants to lure them within range of my camera. When I take a photograph of an animal, I want it to show what the animal has chosen to do on his or her own terms, not what he or she has been forced or coerced to do on human terms. I attempt to capture a glimpse of the unique character of each animal that I photograph, showing them not just as a representative of a certain species, but also as a fully-realized individual.
In college, Wildlife Biologists like me are taught to think of wild animals only in population terms, and wildlife management courses constantly reinforce the idea that individual wild animals don’t matter in the big picture. But individuals make up a population, and it is the diversity among these individuals that allows a population to stay strong and healthy. Individuality is also what fuels the evolutionary process, and ultimately, populations are depleted at the individual level. Finally, we don't connect with animals on a population level. We connect with the individuals that we see in images or in person. If we do not find a way to care about and protect the individual animals to which we are exposed, we have no hope of saving the overall populations.
As you look at my images, I challenge you to look beyond the relative abundance or rarity of the animal's species and see the individual living beings before you. Whether a species numbers in the hundreds or in the millions, every individual is unique.
My photos have appeared in a variety of publications including Wildbird and Birding Magazines, and Birdlife International's Rare Bird Yearbook. I will soon have photos featured in Peterson's Field Guide to Mammal Behavior and on interpretive signs at a National Wildlife Preserve.