Jody Macdonald

Profile Jody MacDonald

© Jody Macdonald

“I think my love for adventure has influenced my photography in just about every way.” – Jody MacDonald

─── by Josh Bright, July 1, 2024
  • Few contemporary figures embody the spirit of adventure and travel photography like our 2024 Travel Award competition judge: 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.

    Photo of a man walking through the desert by Jody Macdonald
    From the series, 'Journey through the Sahara'

    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.”

    Photo of a mother and daughter taking a selfie in front of a lake by Jody Macdonald
    © Jody MacDonald
    Photo of a woman in tall grass by Jody Macdonald
    Woman in Green Field, Rajasthan, India
    Travel photography by Jody Macdonald. Ceremony
    'Jade Dragon Show Mountain'

    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.”

    Photo of a man swimming with an elephant by Jody Macdonald
    Rajan the Asian elephant and his Mahout in the Andaman Islands, India

    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.

    A portrait of a young man from the Mundari tribe in South Sudan, with his cattle
    Mundari Portrait, South Sudan
    Travel photography by Jody Macdonald. Sand inside a building
    'Ghost Town II'
    Travel photography by Jody Macdonald. Sand inside a building
    'Ghost Town I'

    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.

    Photo of a man on top of a train with a surfboard in the desert by Jody MacDonald
    From the series, 'Journey through the Sahara'

    “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.”

    Travel photography by Jody Macdonald. Man in the water with a small boat
    Bajau Man with Canoe

    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.

    Travel photography by Jody Macdonald. Paraglider on sand dunes and ocean, Mozambique
    From the series, 'Marooned in Mozambique'
    Travel photography by Jody Macdonald. Man stood on a boat
    Imragruen Fisherman, Banc d’Arquin National Park, Mauritania
    Travel photography by Jody Macdonald. A man walking alongside a river with mountains in the background by Jody Macdonald
    From the series, 'Cloud Hoppers'.

    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.”

    Travel photography by Jody Macdonald. A man walking through an abandoned building in the Sahara Desert by Jody Macdonald
    From the series, 'Journey through the Sahara'

    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