Connor Stefanison was born on May 31, 1991 in Burnaby, Canada. He was introduced to the world of photography while indulging his other passion, mountain biking. Since then Connor devoted ample time to better understand the nuances of the craft. And when, less than a year ago, he became the first Canadian to receive the prestigious Eric Hosking Portfolio Award, presented to him in London, he knew he is on the right track. The honour not only granted him instant international recognition but also provided him with motivation to broaden his horizon even further.
Being a student of Zoological Sciences, Connor Stefanison’s deeper understanding of the wildlife seems to positively affect his capability as a photographer. This in turn is reflected on the images captured by him of birds and other animals in their natural habitat, such as the baby American dippers screaming for food or a solitary Agalychnis callidryas peeping from behind two slender branches of a tree.
The scenic landscapes closer home or in other parts of North America do not escape Connor’s keen eyes either. Using his enthusiastic mind and roving camera lenses he keeps on registering the lavish flower bed in Mount Revelstoke National Park, the threadlike streams of Fern Falls or the frozen tunnel in Summer Melt on photographic plates — the ever changing grand canvas of nature fresh and fragrant at one point, eerie silent the next.
Legendary artist Paul Gauguin said, Nature has mysterious infinities and imaginative power. It is always varying the productions it offers to us. The artist himself is one of nature’s means. Even considering all his accomplishments Connor Stefanison’s career as a visual artist has only begun. It will be of infinite interest for all the aficionados of photography to follow his development as a visual storyteller closely and find out for themselves if he has done justice to his natural talent. Encouragingly for him, he will always find inexhaustible sources of inspiration in nature that will never fail him if he continues remaining truthful to it.
Tell us about your childhood, the environment you grew up in and your immediate surrounding at home.
I grew up and still live in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. Burnaby is a suburb of Vancouver. The area I live is a coastal temperate rainforest. My family is very outdoor oriented and that exposed me to many sports and outdoor recreational activities. Living in a mountainous area, I had many opportunities to go skiing and mountain biking, and I still do these sports. There is no place I would rather have grown up.
When did you start becoming observant and appreciative of nature and its beauty? Tell us of your wanderlusts.
I have always enjoyed nature for as long as I can remember. I spent a lot of time amid nature and that enabled me to have a good understanding of wildlife. Although I’ve always been observant of nature, when I started photographing in 2008, I really began to become more observant.
How did you first get interested in photography? Does your being trained in Biological Sciences help you in understanding the natural world better?
I first became interested in photography from mountain biking. My friends and I would take photos of each other going off jumps and what not. My friend and his dad then brought me along to their camera club, and that’s where I recall first becoming interested in nature photography. My biology degree doesn’t necessarily help my photography technically, but it allows me to understand what is occurring in certain images. It also helps me understand which images may be important to capture from a conservation perspective. The degree more so taught me about ecological processes, rather than, teaching me the names of all the species I’m photographing.
From or beyond the world of photography whom do you consider your greatest sources of inspiration and why?
It’s tough to choose one single person because I find that it changes so often for me. In no particular order here are a few of them: Stefano Unterthiner, Steve McCurry, Steve Winter, Vincent Munier, David Alan Harvey, Joel Sartore, Michael Nichols, Thomas Peschak, Sterling Lorence, Jasper Doest, and Paul Nicklen. I like all these photographers because their photos are either very artistic, exciting, or both.
How do you prepare yourself for a day out in the wild? What are the elements you like focussing on while composing a shot?
When I first started, I would go out without much intention of creating a specific image. Now, I almost always have a specific image in mind, and I pack my gear accordingly. If I have time, I always try to ensure that every element in the frame is there for a reason and that they all work together. When I’m shooting wildlife, I really enjoy showing the animal in its environment. I do this by using a mid–range or wide angle lens. I find these ‘animalscapes’ to be the most exciting images.
What are the contributions of modern photographic equipments and social media in aiding or causing distractions for a young photographer like you?
The great thing about the new digital equipment is that photography is now very easy and everybody can enjoy it. The problem is that many people become too caught up in all the technical features that they forget about composition which is the most important aspect of photography.
Social media is both very good and very bad. It’s a huge distraction, but it’s also a great way of learning, making connections, and promoting your work.
Can you share any anecdotal story from your many photographic sojourns?
A couple years ago I was shooting Snowy Owls at Boundary Bay in Delta, BC. I was the only photographer out there that day and there was a cameraman from Global News, shooting a story on the owls. He asked if he could shoot a few shots of me taking photos. I did a bunch of scenes where I was mostly acting like I was taking photos. At one point, I fell into a saltwater sinkhole, and managed to raise my camera in time to save it. Of course, that was one of the only video clips they used in the story!
What steps are you taking to hone your skills further? How do you see your creative journey unfolding in front of you from here?
Lately I’ve been studying the work of many photojournalists and people photographers. Photographing people is something that I abandoned for a few years but I’m now realising that it is very important to get good at. I hope to become a conservation photojournalist in the future, so at the moment, I’m trying to learn as much as I can about visual storytelling.
Connor likes …
Reading Untold: The Stories Behind the Photographs of Steve McCurry, one of the most eminent photographers of the world and his idol. He likes listening to classic rock and watch Seinfeld, one of ’90s well known TV series. His favourite movie happens to be Greg Mottola’s 2007 comedy Superbad. The exotic yet uncomplicated tastes of sushi tickle his palate.
Find more of his work at his website.