Interview by Tony Powell
From the runways of Paris fashion week to the jungles of Costa Rica, philanthropist-turned-wildlife-photographer Cindy Jones shares how she transformed a great personal tragedy into a passion for taking pictures. Her life’s wonderful, abrupt turn down a path she never envisioned—all through the simplicity of a camera lens—is on full display in her first show of photos at the Martha Spak Gallery at the Wharf.
How did you discover photography?
It was a totally unplanned, initially terrible twist of fate that led me to photography. In June 2014 my son fell extremely ill, and I flew across the country to Santa Barbara, Calif. to support him. I needed something to fill the spaces between the seemingly endless surgeries and hospital visits, so I picked up a camera one day, and that’s where my journey began.To this day, I still find it amazing how life can surprise you like that; out of one of the darkest, most challenging times of my life I paradoxically discovered a new world of profound light and beauty.
What were your early subjects and how did birds become so prominent in your work?
I began with landscape photography, but very early on I realized the images I was capturing of birds seemed to have a unique, dynamic splendor to them that I naturally gravitated towards. On top of that, our property in Maryland is ideal for photographing birds as it borders a national park and we also have a lake directly behind us—so on any given day there’s a treasure trove of different species of birds nearby.When I really became obsessed though was when I started using a
telephoto lens. By magnifying and hyper-accurately capturing these often far off or very small creatures, it seemed to unveil an almost magical new realm for me to explore.
You’ve traveled extensively to learn from various teachers? Which trip was most meaningful and why?
It’s hard to choose because I’ve been to so many magnificent places for photography (Iceland,Tanzania, Patagonia and British Columbia to name a few), but I would have to say my most recent trip to Costa Rica stands out above the rest as it’s one of the bird capitals of the world.
How have your son’s health challenges and photography changed your perspective of the world?
The whole experience exposed me to a beautiful, unexpected paradox— that sometimes the worst experiences in life are actually doorways to places we never could have imagined, and that even paths beginning in pain and anguish can lead to profound joy and gratitude