Brian Zinke is a firm believer in community and giving back when you have the opportunity. Brian decided early in his photography career to do just that. He donates 15% of proceeds from his photography to designated non-profits that he chooses on an annual basis. Brian’s photography centers around amazing and beautiful wildlife, so naturally he tries to work with non-profits that promote wildlife conservation and outdoor education. Over the past few years he has worked with several non-profits including the City Kids Wilderness Project, the American Society of Mammalogists, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Wyoming.
Below is a quick Q&A with Brian on how he got started and his love for photography.
When did you fall in love with the outdoors? Was it a certain experience that allowed you to appreciate it?
It’s hard to say exactly when I fell in love with it. I spent a lot of time outdoors as a kid camping with scouts and fishing with my family. I think one of the most impactful experiences I ever had was when I visited the Boundary Waters of Minnesota. I went on a week-long canoe trip along the U.S.-Canada border where motorized vehicles are not allowed. It was such an incredibly peaceful place. You don’t hear cars in the distance, there are no boats racing across the lakes, just the occasional canoe or kayak. It was the first time I was ever really able to disconnect from the digital world for any length of time. I loved it. And it was around that time that I started to get interested in photography.
When you started doing photography as a career at what point did you decide to have a purpose and mission behind the photography?
I would actually say it was the other way around. I wanted to do something to give back and photography seemed like a good way to do that. Photography had always been just a hobby for me, but when I realized I could do more with it, that’s when I really started pursuing it as a profession.
15% of your proceeds go to overall environmental causes. Can you share more about the organizations you work with and perhaps ones you would like to work with?
I partner with organizations that support conservation, research, and outdoor education, in one way or another. I am happy to announce that my partner organization for 2016 is City Kids Wilderness Project. They work with under-served kids in the Washington, D.C. area, providing them with opportunities and guidance they might not otherwise receive. One of those opportunities is each summer they bring kids in their program to their ranch near Jackson, Wyoming. The kids get to experience the outdoors and wilderness, something most would never be able to do around Washington, D.C. It’s a really great life-building program and I am incredibly excited to be working with them this year. I am also donating a couple of my prints to the American Society of Mammalogists, a mammal-focused research society, for their annual silent auction. The proceeds of the auction go to support student grants and awards.
I also partner with local organizations that could use the help of a photographer. For instance, in my inaugural summer I partnered with Make-A-Wish Wyoming and the local Lander Valley High School in raising money for Wyoming Wish Kids. It was a great success and it is always a great feeling when you can give back locally.
There are so many great organizations and causes out there that I wouldn’t want to speculate on any future partnerships. Right now I am focused on doing everything I can to support City Kids. However, if anyone has an organization that would be interested in partnering with me in the future, I would love to hear from them!
What is your favorite place to take photographs? Is it a certain state or region of land that you favor the most?
That’s a tough one. There are a lot of places I would like to photograph but haven’t really had the opportunity to visit, like the Pacific Northwest and Canada. Most of my work is from the Great Plains and the eastern side of the Rockies. I love the prairie of the Midwest; you really can’t beat those sunsets. The Rockies have more of the charismatic fauna that people really get excited about, like bears and bighorn sheep. If I had to choose, my favorite region currently is the Wyoming and Montana area because you kind of get the best of both worlds with the mountains as well as the plains.
Do you have a favorite photograph in your collection, or maybe a top 3? I know it’s hard to choose just one 🙂