Right off, when you spend time with him, you know Andy is incredibly smart and is very funny… what you learn over time is Andy’s deep respect and love for animals. From his beloved own pets (read his missive to his dog, Wally, here) to the wild animals he photographs, you can see his tenderness and care for them. And you would be in good company – his award winning work has been seen in National Geographic, Outdoor Photographer, Shutterbug, and Scuba Diving Magazine.
Here’s Andy :
Andy Lerner: Putting Wildlife First
What started you taking photography?
My folks were really big snorkelers. They loved finding reefs in the Caribbean to snorkel on and enjoyed sharing that with us as we grew up.
When I learned to scuba dive, I started taking photos as a way to share what I was seeing with them. Nothing fancy, just a little waterproof point and shoot camera. But that was the start- my mom got such huge kick out of it, and I just really enjoyed sharing what I was seeing underwater with my family, and then to others as I went to more and more places. So it’s a bit backward with me as I started with underwater photography and then branched out from there.
Who gave you support early on?
I still feel like it’s “early on” because I’m still learning all of the time. But I think I just got a lot of positive reenforcement from different groups of people. Most people don’t get to see a lot of the things I am lucky enough to shoot, so I got a lot of excited feedback when people saw the images.
What does your work aim to say?
I really want to connect people to the natural world. And hopefully through that, inspire some kind of reaction to protect and conserve. I also can’t deny that there’s an element of “look at the cool stuff I saw!” in there, because I’ve been fortunate to see a lot of cool stuff.
Do you have a favorite photograph? How did you get it?
Oh man, I will have to think about that. I have a new favorite every day, for different reasons, and I may shoot another tomorrow. I also rediscover old ones all of the time. I just returned from Uganda, and took a portrait of a silverback gorilla that I like right now. That was a bit of work – trekking in the mountains to get to the family of gorillas, then waiting for the right moment. It was a tough shot to get, which adds a little to my liking the results.
You have been to so many places and seen so much of the world. Do you have a favorite place and why?
I like different places for different reasons. I love Indonesia & Fiji for underwater – which is kind of a no-brainer- because they’re just beautiful & the cultures are amazing. And I’ve learned so much from going to counties like Kenya and Botswana. To take wildlife photos that are worth seeing, you have to learn a great deal about the behaviors of different animals and the environment in which they live. Even though I feel like I have a decent foundation, I learn more every time I go somewhere. Also, wherever I go, I make sure to occasionally put the camera down to just soak up wherever I am and whatever I’m seeing.
Who or what inspires you?
Being out on the open can really wake you up and get your imagination going.
What do you consider success?
For photography I think it’s as simple as having someone find connection to an image I’ve taken. Whether they think it’s cool, or interesting, or if they are motivated to own a piece, or even better, motivated to consider the conservation of wildlife – I think that’s a success.
What’s been a real high-point in your career or life?
I don’t know if if its one single thing – Every time I go to a new place it can eclipse the last, and that’s what I’ll be talking about for some time… or until tI visit the next place. Also having a creative career and not having to do something difficult or boring, in and of itself is a pretty good deal.
What was the best piece of advice given to you?
Let it go.
What’s your motto or words to live by?
I may not get another chance.
What makes you laugh?
Oh, where do I start? I laugh a lot. But my sense how humor tends to be a bit dark, so in the interest of protecting the innocent, maybe I should just stay away from this question.
I always feel like I’m chasing some kind of holy grail, without even knowing what that might be. That said, I’d like to get up to Yosemite again – this fall if possible. I am also due for another visit to Death Valley – I love the desert.
Pie Cake or Ice Cream?
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