Next up in our series of Photographer Interviews is the talented British wildlife photographer, Luke Massey.
Luke Massey is a 25-year-old wildlife photographer from the UK, growing up just outside of London. Since the age of 18, Luke has been travelling the world, photographing as he goes. He currently lives in the Central American country of Nicaragua, where he is documenting the wildlife and running a horse ranch.
Thanking his sister for inadvertently starting his wildlife photography career, Luke says that while she was studying photography at college, he would use her gear whenever he had the chance. “I grabbed her camera when she wasn’t using it when I was 12 to take with me when I went to look for wildlife, I loved being able to show people what I was seeing instead of just telling them about it,” he recalls.
As a wildlife obsessed kid, Luke’s parents actively encouraged him to be outside, instead of sitting behind a computer.
Luke said: “I just love wildlife, finding new species, seeing the incredible behaviour, learning new things and the way wildlife travels; like bird migration fascinates me.
“My parents helped me out in a big way, encouraging me to be out and about, be it looking for things, building ponds etc, they certainly gave me that push to embrace nature.”
Photography, like other creative pursuits, is about being inspired by what is around us. Whether that is the landscape or the wildlife, or other photographers and what they create. Luke lists, Brent Stirton and his ‘incredibly hard-hitting work, Charlie Hamilton James for his ‘knowledge of wildlife’ and Andy Parkinson with his ‘photographic skills paired with a naturalist’s knowledge which make his work stunning’, as three photographers who inspire his work.
Luke draws inspiration from further afield too. “I’ve got a stunning piece from the Northern Territory in Australia by one of the last aboriginal artists grow up painting on rock.
He said: “It tells the story of how the echidna and long-necked turtle came to be. I love a story and I guess I want my work to tell stories through the images.
Always pushing the boundaries and trying to create original and inspiring work, Luke is well aware of what goes into making a great photograph from the technical aspects. But he is sometimes left wondering how some photographs make it into a big competition. ‘I think ‘wow, how did that get in’, then I see a photograph that didn’t make the cut and think the opposite. Photography is personal.
“Moments are incredibly important, maybe it is rarely seen behaviour or a species that has hardly been photographed, it will be special if executed well. That one photo could also turn the tide for the fate of a species, as photographers/filmmakers believe we’re in a privileged position to educate and inspire. Show someone something new or different and make them care.” Luke said.
Photography is first and foremost, Luke’s passion. But he realised very early on his career that if he wished to make a living full time from his work, that being a filmmaker is an equally important skill, not only in monetary terms but also in using his photography skills to develop a story.
Luke strongly believes wildlife filmmakers and photographers should, first and foremost, be conservationists, as they use wildlife for their own enjoyment and make their living from it.
He said: “Without it, we’d certainly struggle. We should all strive to help it, as much as it helps us. The sheer joy wildlife has brought me over the years I hope I can my bit to repay it.
“That’s why through my work I try to focus on various issues. I’m working on an ongoing global illegal wildlife trade story and also on the problem in the Mediterranean with the bird slaughter on both Cyprus and Malta.
“In Indonesia, I’ve worked on the destruction of Balikpapan Bay, an area home to proboscis monkeys, and my urban wildlife work strives to show that we can live alongside amazing wildlife.
“I hope people see these stories and become educated. Whether that means choosing to act a certain way or being more responsible on where they buy things from, to donating money or volunteering their time to make a difference.”
Luke’s photograph of the elusive Lynx is such an image that he believes is not only powerful but also tells a story. “I love lynx, they are my go-to animal,” he says. “I worked on a project on the Iberian lynx, the rarest cat in the world, in 2015.
Luke aim with this project was to raise awareness as well as much-needed funds to help with the Iberian lynx’s conservation. The plan clearly paid off, as he had a story published which caught the attention of a charity called ‘Wild and Free’ which raised funds to donate to another charity which works to save the lynx.
“Geraldine, the founder of W&F, had never heard of an Iberian lynx before seeing my images, so that was mission accomplished I guess,” Luke recalls.
“This lynx was a reward after many many hours in the field searching, she came out just after sunset to sit and clean herself on this rock.
“It was a shot I‘d envisaged and never achieved, I wanted something to show the Lynx in her habitat and also give that ghost-like feel. They really are ghosts, appearing and disappearing in the blink of an eye. It probably is my favourite shot to date and actually won Travel Photographer of the Year’s wildlife category in 2016.”
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Luke is drawn to Africa and in particular Zambia’s South Luangwa.
“Zambia’s South Luangwa for the sheer amount of photogenic opportunities, incredible light and tonnes of animals, you never know what you’re gonna see. Every visit to the park holds something new be it a leopard taking a baboon or a pride of lions hunting buffalo to a surprise pangolin or hippo fight,” Luke said.
Find that connection with a subject is something every photographer strives for. Luke is of course no different. Yet his subject matter is often another living, breathing animal and he finds himself getting attached to a specific species and repeatedly revisiting, like with the Iberian lynx.
He said: “Being in nature is my way of chilling out, my own therapy. I lost my mum late last year and I think without my family and my girlfriend’s support and being able to go out into nature I certainly wouldn’t have coped, nature is a real healer.
“I get attached to wildlife in a way that gets me riled up, I get frustrated with the way people treat wildlife when there is such an obvious fix to help it.
“In Cyprus, for example, millions of birds are killed each year by illegal trappers, the majority are on a sovereign base area controlled by the British military. It could be stopped almost overnight, yet very little is done. If it was drugs or humans being moved through the area they’d act immediately but it seems wildlife is expendable.
“I’ve cried over a dying flamingo in a naval base in Malta, looking down at this bird, a bird at the time I’d never really seen in the wild but some guy in a boat had shot and left to die for the sake of fun.
“Or when a proboscis monkey I’d been photographing for a few days leapt on to an overhead wire and was killed, that monkey should never have come into contact with a wire, or even ever seen one but because humans had encroached so much into its habitat it died due to that conflict.
“Sometimes it gets frustrating but then I’m only seeing these things for a few days, I meet incredible people who live and breathe through these things but still ceaselessly continue to fight for the survival of nature.
Find Luke at: