Ian was born in 1956 and grew up in the suburbs of north west
London. Although he enjoyed watching the Sparrows and Starlings
that lived in his garden from an early age he dreamt of traveling
to wild and exotic places and of being amongst truly wild animals.
Watching a wildlife film on television one day he suddenly
realized that someone must be behind the camera working it. He
knew instantly that was what he wanted to do when he grew up,
he was nine at the time.
Forty four years later he is an award winning wildlife cameraman
and stills photographer who for nearly 30 years has traveled the
world filming on most of the BBC’s big landmark nature
Series such as Autumn Watch, Life in the Freezer, Blue Planet, Planet Earth and the up coming Frozen Planet
have taken him to some of earths most remote wildernesses. In the years that span the filming of these
landmark series Ian’s camera work has been nominated for a Primetime Emmy on 3 occasions. He was awarded
an Emmy for his camera work on Blue Planet and a BAFTA for Life in the Freezer. Ian is one of the very few
cameramen who has filmed from Life In The Freezer almost 20 years ago through to Frozen Planet in 2011.
Although he still makes wildlife films in the last few years Ian has returned to his first love - nature
photography. “ The natural world is my love and my passion. I try to reflect its wonder and beauty in any way
I can and photography is just about the most direct way I know to express my relationship with wild nature”.
In August of 2010 Ian with his wife Anne opened there own gallery - “Images from the Wild” in Fowey,
Cornwall which exhibits his limited edition photographs. Many of Ian’s pictures are in some of the wildest and
most remote corners of the world while others reflect his growing relationship with wild Cornwall.
“I have made images of the natural world pretty much all of my working life. I started training as a stills
photographer when I left college at nineteen. But it was really just a means towards and end, I was desperate
to be a wildlife cameraman. So as soon as I could I bought myself an old Bolex 16 mm film camera and began to
shoot film. I soon came to realise the huge differences between taking a still photograph and shooting a film.
“A photograph is a moment in time but when you are shooting a film one image must follow another to tell a
story. The process is rather like writing a book, with each shot being like a single word which must combine
with other words to make a coherent sentence. Hopefully the end result is a story that makes sense. When
taking a photograph the moment that the button is pushed is the culmination of the process, whereas when
filming that moment is just the beginning.”
“My big break came with the offer of a job in the film unit of the Royal Society For The Protection Of Birds,
it was there that I really began to learn how to shoot wildlife films.”
“After four happy years I knew it was time to go freelance and try to establish myself as a cameraman with
the BBC Natural History Unit. Using all my savings, remortgaging my house and borrowing money from my
family meant I could just about afford to buy a secondhand 16mm Arriflex film camera. I still have the old
girl, she served me well over twenty years of hard use in some quite extreme places. I have worked as a
wildlife cameraman ever since, largely for the BBC Natural History Unit. My life through the last 25 years has
entailed traveling and filming for an average of 7 months of each year. It has taken me to many wild and
wonderful places, often camping or living rough in some of the remotest places on the planet. I am never
happier than when I am out in wild places, it feels like home to me. ”
“I have snorkeled amongst thousands of breeding Red Salmon in gin clear Alaskan rivers and dangled like a
human spider from a rope high in an emergent fig tree in the steamy jungles of Peru whilst filming Macaws.”
“I have tracked Wolves in northern Greenland, traveling for days on skis through melting snow and wading
flooded streams while towing my camera and camping gear behind me. At the other end of the world I have
camped for weeks in the middle of Penguin colonies on the Antarctic peninsula. And I walked through the
middle of a minefield in northern Afghanistan totally unaware of my danger until I reached the safety of a
“On Kodiak Island in Alaska a big male Brown Bear stole my camera, grabbing it in his mouth and running off.
The camera was running at the time and the bear managed to film me trying to persuade him to give it back
“It is said that life is a circle and so it seems to be, for over the last 10 I have found myself inexorably pulled
back to still photography. For 20 years I had hardly touched a stills camera but with the coming of really high
quality digital camera equipment I bought myself a state of the art Canon 1DS MK 11 and started taking
pictures again. It was a revelation. ”
“It didn’t take very long to reach the conclusion that I had always been a photographer trapped inside a
cameraman’s body. All the years of filming wildlife had taught me lessons that I began to apply directly to
photographing the natural world. Before long I began to feel that I had finally found my own voice. No longer
was I a small cog in the machinery of the wildlife filming industry, photography quickly became an intensely
personal expression of my relationship with nature. ”
“In the summer of 2010 my wife Anne and I started a new venture, one we had been planning for many years.
We have opened our own gallery in Fowey on the south coast of Cornwall. Having loved Fowey for years it has
now become our home, a beautiful place to live and work. I walk out of my front door and within 10 minutes
am on the cliffs watching hunting Peregrine Falcons or Ravens tumbling over the sea. Right in front of our
house Grey Seals and Cormorant hunt Bass and Salmon leap in the rain as they head up the river to spawn.
For a naturalist Cornwall is a piece of heaven which inspires my photography. ”
“Although I still love traveling to far flung places to film and photograph I am really enjoying getting to know
my own patch and the creatures that live here as characters in their own right. And as the connection with
the sea, cliffs and moors that surround me strengthens so my photographs express that.”
“So many photographs to take and so little time.”
All images and words throughout this site © Ian McCarthy 2013