Updated: Apr 21
Portrait of an environmental portrait artist
Mists of time by Harry Skeggs
The world we live in is majestic. The Earth made up of all of its varied ecosystems and the creatures that are supported within all hold beauty and purpose, much like every human on the planet. Everything is an essential part of the whole. Through the lens of Harry Skeggs we are invited to view these places and the inhabitants of them in a very calm and intimate way. Looking at his images you cannot help but feel your own connection to the world that is portrayed through his art. You fill with peace and hope and understanding as you witness these moments in the everyday lives of these living creatures, or the sheer beauty in the landscapes. These feelings give rise to thoughts of how much longer we as the human species on the planet might have with these natural wonders and impactful inhabitants of these spaces.
Making Waves by Harry Skeggs
The essential aspect of a great portrait is to capture the essences of the subject. The connection that exists in cooperation between the person attempting to preserve the subject and the subjects openness to be so preserved. When I had the chance to sit down and speak with Mr. Skeggs his answer to the first question I asked, illustrates his prowess as a portrait artist as much as he is an environmental and landscape artist. The question was; What makes a Harry Skeggs image? His very eloquent answer,
“The most important element of my work is that the subjects are wild, free and at total ease…They are windows into a world that would be there whether or not I was in the way with a camera”.
It is this approach that allows the subjects to be so open and their essence so beautifully preserved.
Last light of the Huli by Harry Skeggs
As a species, we humans have a deep connection with the world around us. We rely on the natural world for our survival and well-being, and yet all too often we take it for granted. Our modern lives often insulate us from the raw beauty and power of nature, and we can forget the intricate connections and dependencies that make life on this planet possible. Environmental photographers like Harry Skeggs offer us a way to reconnect with nature and rediscover our place in the world.
Long live the King by Harry Skeggs
" I have seen habitats being destroyed in real time, over the course of years not decades and centuries. "
Kong by Harry Skeggs
"It's made it alarmingly obvious that this is today's problem, our problem, not something that can be kicked down the road as someone else's issue."
Scar by Harry Skeggs
Skeggs is a master of his craft, though according to him when asked to pick his favorite image he is still working on mastering the craft. Here is what he had to say in choosing his favorite image:
“This is a truly difficult question, largely because I am enormously self critical about my works and typically see what could have been better in each frame. For that reason I don't emotionally have a favorite. However, if I were to objectively choose based on the goals I set out for myself when shooting fine art prints, it would be Mists of Time for its sheer simplicity and clean composition”
I invite you to look through his images here as well as his catalog of work on Clarendon Fine Art or Bel-Air Fine Art and of course his website or his instagram @harryskeggs You can draw your own conclusions.
Between the Cracks by Harry Skeggs
His images of wild animals and their habitats are both stunningly beautiful and deeply poignant. His photographs offer a window into a world that is often hidden from view, a world that is rapidly changing as a result of climate change and other human impacts. Through his lens, we can see the majesty and complexity of the natural world, and we are reminded of our responsibility to protect it, as well as our small place within it.
Skeggs' images invite us to slow down and take notice of the world around us, to appreciate the small details and the larger patterns that make life on this planet possible.
But Skeggs' work is more than just a celebration of the natural world. It is also a call to action. As he says,
"I believe art has an immense power to evoke emotion. Without this, it is very hard to win hearts and minds to fight the battles we need to fight. I hope to help audiences fall in love with the intricacies and quirks of our wild neighbors and, in doing so, want to protect them for generations to come."
In an age of climate change, biodiversity loss, and environmental degradation, this message is more important than ever. We need to be reminded of our connection to the natural world, and we need to be inspired to take action to protect it. Skeggs' images can do just that, offering a way to engage with the natural world on a deep and emotional level.
From the brink by Harry Skeggs
Of course, his work is not without its challenges. As he notes,
"The number of animals and wild habitats decline at a rate of knots, this makes each shot and each subject more relevant and important than it ever has been."
He is acutely aware that some of his images of animals will become historical records before his life is over, and this is both terrifying and a spur to action. "Perhaps I can play some part in avoiding that fate," he says.
As a society, we must take responsibility for our impact on the natural world. We must act to protect the habitats and creatures that share this planet with us. But we must also find ways to appreciate the beauty and complexity of the natural world, to celebrate the connections and dependencies that make life on this planet possible.
In this sense, Harry Skeggs' work is not just environmental photography. It is also portraiture. Each of his images is a portrait of a living being, a record of a moment in time that will never come again. And like all good portraiture, Skeggs' images capture the essence of their subjects. The connection that exists in cooperation between the person attempting to preserve the subject and the subject itself.
Harry Skeggs' art is, a reminder that the world we inhabit is a precious and wondrous place, and our collective responsibility to take care of it. They show that the Earth is a shared home, and we are not the only creatures with a right to it. Each image is a portrait of a living being that is just as important as any human being, perhaps more so, as these portraits are the only voice these beings possess that humans might be able to understand.
Eagle Eyed by Harry Skeggs
The National Portrait Gallery’s of the world have mission statements to tell the stories of the
-people- who have made significant contributions to their nations and to the world. This should be expanded to include the other inhabitants of the Earth that make life on this earth both possible and enjoyable for all. The contributions of every creature co-existing with humans on this planet should be recognized if we are to learn to truly appreciate the contributions of the human race.
It is hard to deny that Harry Skeggs' work fits perfectly within this mission, as he is not only an artist but also a conservationist who is working to preserve the planet and the creatures that call it home. His art is a tribute to the animals that have been around for millions of years, living in harmony with the planet until humans arrived and disrupted the balance. The portraits of these noble inhabitants of the world belong right along side any scientist, explorer or monarch. His images are portraits of living creatures that deserve to be appreciated, protected, and celebrated.
All images curtesy of Harry Skeggs