Wildlife, nature and conservation photographer, Bee-Elle has committed her life to being a voice for animals through her photography which acts as a call to action to protect the natural world. Originally in the corporate sector, she followed her passion for human rights and conservation. She moved into international development with the United Nations on poverty reduction, conservation and economic development programs in Asia and East Africa. She has also worked on a high-profile human rights cases working closely with media outlets and Parliament to enact change. She believes in the power of Instagram influencers to use the platform to help catalyse change and inspire people to make a difference in conservation.
Tell us about @bee.elle.wildlife.
At first I wanted a place to share my photography, and then when I started to connect with more and more like-minded people it turned into a place where I could not only share my images but also messages that are close to me, and that is to value and respect all life.
What key things have you learnt from your work with the UN?
Through working at the UN in international development, the insights I drew has shaped and informed some of my views today on global issues, especially as they relate to conservation. There are a great deal of intersects between international development and conservation, making both issues complex, and are significantly driven by many overlapping issues of weak governance and corruption, poverty and economic challenges, which can create and amplify certain problems.
There’s a space for multilateral organisations and governments to implement nation-wide programs and policies, but just as importantly, there’s a space for civil society – including non-government organisations and ordinary people – to contribute towards the change. This can be done through promoting awareness of causes people care about, lobbying work or activism, or just making small changes in people’s lives.
What do you love best about wildlife photography?
Being out in nature is always special because I get to admire what’s around me and continuously be fascinated by what I see. Photographing wildlife allows me to appreciate the subject in more ways than one- seeing our fellow animals in their natural habitats, untouched, in the land where they belong. Encountering wildlife, and, especially when they allow you to be in their space, is always a privilege. Wildlife photography also takes a lot of patience, and takes time to track and shoot them, but I never seem to sense the time passing at all.
Top tips for the perfect wildlife photography shot?
Patience, keep your eye out, understand animal behaviour, and try to also capture the context – I often see many zooming into the subject as close as possible for a tight shot, but oftentimes the best images are taken wide, which captures the habitat and the environments in which they live, and seeing how they interact within it, which can tell a deeper and more meaningful story.
How do you choose which images to post onto your feed?
I decide based on the message or story I want to tell at the time, and then choose the image to accompany. Sometimes it happens the other way as well- if I take a new image, it might inspire me to write something about it. I think that’s what I love about images- they can both tell stories and elicit stories.
What about the Earth Hour + WWF campaign resonated with you?
I believe in using the power of photography and social media to spur change, and with millions of users on Instagram, utilising a post to promote awareness of climate change, environmental conservation and the importance of protecting our planet is something that makes a whole lot of sense.
Do you feel there is a new movement emerging on Instagram of conservation/environmental influencers?
I do- I think Instagram is a great platform for anyone who has a message, and there are certainly a group of conservationists out there who are publishing a wonderful curation of work that speaks a consistent message- that we need to be aware of our actions and the impact on our earth, and that we need to make changes now to ensure that we can leave this world a better place for future for generations to come.
Tell us more about your work on the human rights campaign.
The campaign operated before the days of Instagram so traditional media was used including TV, radio and print. What struck me the most was how even through those traditional mediums it is easy to connect and engage with people through a common cause. Now with the advent of social media, the accessibility of these touch points and the swiftness with which you can engage with communities has multiplied significantly, and with greater connectivity and the sharing of ideas, it can help to catalyse change – and hopefully for the better.
Which is your favourite photo on your feed and why?
I have a soft spot for elephants, and one of my favourite images would probably be an image of an bull elephant having a dust bath on the plains of Amboseli in Kenya. He was an elephant being an elephant in his place in the world. As he bathed, the clouds of dirt they hurled quickly dispersed and seemingly vanished as they fell. At first it was a beautiful sight, but then the way the dust plumes fell over him also represented to me their fragile existence and the unjust swiftness with which their species could disappear due to threat of the ivory trade, which is the main driver for pushing this species out of existence.
Who inspires you?
John Muir, Aldo Leopold – the effortless ways in which they connected with nature and saw much more of a deeper meaning about valuing life and protecting the Earth.
If someone was to make one small change in their day to day life to help save the planet, what would you recommend that should be?
I would say try and eat less meat. The amount of carbon generated from the livestock industry is enormous, and it’s been said that giving up beef alone can cut your carbon footprint in half – and that’s a significant amount if you think about the power of the collective.