“I think my love for adventure has influenced my photography in just about every way.” – Jody MacDonald
Few contemporary figures embody the spirit of adventure and travel photography quite like Jody MacDonald. With rare intrepidity and considerable skill, she has dedicated her career to venturing through the world’s most remote and captivating corners, capturing awe-inspiring imagery that encapsulates its diverse beauty.
Born in Canada but raised in Saudi Arabia since the age of three, Jody’s childhood was defined by extensive family travels during school breaks. By the time she returned to Canada at sixteen, her worldly encounters had left an indelible mark, setting the stage for her future career in photography.
“That exposure to exotic places during my formative years really left an impression on me. I started dreaming of wanting to be Indiana Jones…having adventures in distant, exotic lands.”
Though she opted to study Outdoor Recreation at university, she also enrolled in a photography elective, which ignited her love for the medium. Recognizing the potential to merge her passions for art and adventure, she began carrying a camera on all her climbing, camping, and paddling expeditions to document her experiences.
“It became a perfect marriage of my passions of art, adventure, and travel. After university, I became a mountain and raft guide. I always brought a camera with me and enjoyed taking photos of my experiences, but it wasn’t until I started sailing around the world that I began to take my photography seriously. Looking back, I think that’s where it all began.”
Jody’s career, though still relatively young, has been a remarkable one. She is an equal parts adventurer and photographer who has spent the past decade traversing the globe by sailboat, train, and various means, visiting remote and isolated locales, all the while capturing stunning images that exude the diverse splendor of our planet.
She has embarked on some truly remarkable adventures. From paragliding off colossal sand dunes in Mozambique’s Bazaruto archipelago to embarking on a perilous 700-kilometer journey atop an iron-ore transporting train through Mauritania’s unforgiving Sahara Desert, or documenting Rajan, the last surviving elephant from a group brought to the Andaman Islands and forced to swim for log transportation until the logging ban in 2002. The images she captured along the way, display her interplay of skill, creativity, and sincerity, along with her relentless curiosity and unyielding wanderlust.
“I think my love for adventure has influenced my photography in just about every way. The very nature of my job is inherently adventurous. I think in order to do this job you have to enjoy challenges and be comfortable with being uncomfortable. So much of my job is being resourceful and being able to adapt quickly to different situations, and my adventurous spirit definitely helps bring confidence to all the unpredictable situations that I find myself in.”
However, her photographs don’t merely capture the diverse beauty of our world, they also communicate the often complex stories of the destinations she visits and the people who call them home. Her approach is one of honesty, respect, and unwavering curiosity, avoiding preconceived narratives to capture the essence of each story. While themes of climate change and environmental threats often surface in her work, Jody’s focus lies on “stories of hope” – inspirational tales of individuals and communities striving to make a difference in the face of adversity.
Recently, she collaborated with the World Wildlife Foundation to document the Regua Ecological Reserve in Brazil. This inspiring story revolves around one couple’s profound love for the rainforest, which led them to establish the reserve in order to protect and restore vast areas of the threatened Atlantic Forest. Their efforts have not only safeguarded biodiversity but also brought local communities together to rewild fragmented regions and restore lost rainforest, creating a protected area of over 11,000 hectares, with thousands of trees planted and reintroduced wildlife species.
“It’s so inspiring to see how much positive impact one or two people can have on the world around them. I think we could all use some inspiration from stories like this these days.”
Jody’s images truly capture the spirit of adventure and showcase her unwavering commitment to both exploration and photography – a symbiotic relationship that forms the core of her practices. She stands as one of the medium’s most unique exponents, an inspiration for aspiring travel and adventure photographers seeking to find their own distinct voice.
“Photograph things that are important to you, that you connect with, and try to bring awareness to them in your own way and in your own voice. No one will be able to replicate that, and then don’t stop. Persistence is key.”
All images © Jody MacDonald
NB: The 2023 Travel Photography Award is open for entries until August 31. Enter here.