Steve Morello Q&A
YOU’VE OBVIOUSLY EXPERIENCED A GREAT DEAL OF SUCCESS IN YOUR LIFE. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT, AND WHY?
For me its always hard to give absolutes, like the best or the most. I like to measure my life, my accomplishments by the sum of the whole. The people who have told me that I have influenced their life, places I have contributed to preserving, memories I have accumulated, the overall experiences I have had. My life isn’t over so maybe that greatest accomplishment is yet to come.
LIKE EVERYONE ELSE, LIFE IS NOT ALWAYS SMOOTH. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT A SETBACK OR TRAGEDY YOU’VE ENCOUNTERED, HOW YOU DEALT WITH IT, AND THE IMPACT IT HAS HAD ON YOU?
I guess everyone has felt the loss of a loved one or disappointments that are part of the life experience, personal things that would have less meaning to your readers but there is one thing that seems to be an occupational hazard, leaving people. Being in the places I get to go to and seeing the remarkable things I see, these are intense moments. I am typically not alone and I work with local people who you become bonded to through these shared experiences. You share an understanding that is hard to share with people who were not there. Then at the end of it, I move on to the next. You never forget those people and the influence they have on you stays with you your entire life.
DO YOU SET ASIDE “ME-TIME” IN YOUR CALENDAR, AND WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME TO RELAX?
Being a photographer is not a nine-to-five kind of job. Actually it’s not a job at all at least to me. When I come home from leading a tour I may want a few days of quiet time to decompress but I am always a photographer. So wherever I am I am looking at the world through the eyes of a photographer, so I guess I am never not working. When I am working for someone else, it can be intense at times, but if I am just photographing for my own, I am relaxing. Looking through the lens isolates me from the world and that is where I find my me time.
WHAT’S THE MOST MAGICAL PLACE YOU’VE DISCOVERED WHERE YOU CAN GO TO CHILL OUT?
Again I don’t like thinking about the absolutes, everywhere is magical. Everyone of us lives in a destination. No matter where we are someone else from another part of the world would spend lots of money to visit that very same place. I tell my students that when they are photographing, they need to discover the extraordinary in the ordinary things around them. As far as a place for me to chill, I recently relocated to a small old farmstead in Maine. It has a river and woods and I am very much looking forward to spending time exploring what it has to offer.
DOES PHILANTHROPY PLAY A ROLE IN YOUR LIFE, TO WHAT EXTENT AND HOW?
Yes, absolutely. I don’t think you can be a nature photographer without being effected by the things you see, and along with that goes a strong commitment to help preserve or protect. Of course it can be as simple as donating some images or giving a talk at a local nature center, or it can be more in-depth. I am presently working on a project in Northern Peru with some friends where we are trying to get some protection for a small reef off the cost of Punta Sal.
WHO IS ON THE GUEST LIST FOR YOUR IDEAL DINNER PARTY, PRESENT OR PAST?
This is a hard question because I don’t remember people right off the bat. It’s the kind of thing where I hear someone else say their choice and then say, “Oh yeah! I want that person too.” So on my list I think my grandfather, Robert Kurdock, Robin Williams, Pete Seeger, and Michele Obama. I would also have a few of my colleagues whom I have had the pleasure of learning from and working with. The people in my life have shaped the person I am today, and besides, I could probably get one of them to pick up the check.
CAN YOU OFFER ANY WORDS OF WISDOM FOR OUR READERS?
I never thought I would be a professional photographer, I photographed first as a tool and then because it was just so much fun. I meet so many people who want to be a photographer for a living and they get so caught up in the business of photography. I understand the desire to do this for a living but don’t lose track of the journey while you are reaching for the prize.