Iconic nature photographer Steve Parish has battled back from bankruptcy to produce his first fine art exhibition.
Chances are if you grew up in Australia in the late ‘80s and ‘90s you’ll be familiar with Steve Parish’s work. You probably bought more than one postcard, calendar or coffee table book celebrating the country’s stunning natural wonders or unique wildlife.
Parish says he has always felt an incredible connection with nature, but his latest venture has more to do with human nature. Traumatic life events brought about by Mother Nature saw him crippled with depression but now, on the other side of a very painful journey, he’s making it his life mission to help others with mental illness by harnessing the power of the natural world.
At the start of 2011, Parish was running a multi -million dollar publishing house which had employed 100 staff over 30 years, serviced 3,500 retailers Australia-wide, and operated its own pre-press facility, warehouse and sales force. Life was good, turnover was great and he was driven to place nature publications in every home.
Then Parish and his partner were bankrupted by the January 2011 floods. They went from being owners of an extensive, content rich publishing house worth millions, to owning nothing.
He says anxiety attacks became a regular occurrence and saw him hospitalised, yet the experience was ultimately positive and the start of a personal awakening. “You can lose something you own,” he reflects, “but not something you are.”
He came to understand that he was not the sum total of the (mostly negative) stories in his mind and realised he could switch them off and focus on telling other stories.
“Photography gets us seeing the world around us. It takes us outside our head. We can all get locked in to what I call ‘mind stories’ – the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves – and they’re usually negative,” Parish contemplates.
“Looking through a lens (or connecting with an image in an exhibition) can change your outlook on life – even just for a moment.”
“If what you are focused on is naturally beautiful and inspiring, that can make a real difference.”
He’s no stranger to exhibiting his photographic works, but his newest offering will be his first fine art exhibition.
Earnest, inspiring and empathetic, he has produced the As One exhibition with a very clear goal in mind. He wants others to understand the power of connecting to the natural world, not just to inspire creativity but to calm and heal.
He has partnered with national non-profit organisation Bush Heritage and the Queensland Alliance for Mental Health to connect or re-connect troubled people to the natural world around them.
“Photography can be a catalyst in people’s lives,” he says.
“We are too busy living a life without purpose. Stepping back and realising that we as humans are as much a part of the natural world as other organisms can deliver an immediate connection.”
“Nature connection is not about having a PHD and being fit and going to Kakadu and doing a bush walk. It’s just about going inside your own conscious moment and saying I am part of the natural world, I am the only one that can control my state of consciousness and I am going to walk outside and enjoy what I see.”
Steve Parish’s As One exhibition can be seen at Brisbane Powerhouse from Tuesday 8 September to Sunday 4 October.