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My Photography Journey To Find Purpose & Become An Artist

by Cristina Mittermeier

Embarking on the journey of learning photography is both exhilarating and demanding, but its true value and fulfillment emerge when you infuse it with purpose. My own voyage commenced in the heart of the Amazon. Serendipity led me to capture one of my earliest images: a portrait of a Kayapo warrior, immortalized through the lens of an old Nikon Camera. At that time, I found myself immersed in a Kayapo village, convened to address the looming threat of the Belo Monte dam—a looming menace poised to uproot numerous Indigenous and rural communities. This photograph, though slightly out-of-focus and poorly exposed, was initially misattributed to my then-husband, conservationist and primatologist Dr. Russ Mittermeier. It emerged as the centerpiece of an important exhibition on Amazonian art. Despite the misstep, it remains a cherished favorite of mine, marking the genesis of my passion for photography. Gazing upon it, I was struck by a profound realization: I possessed the ability to capture moments of significance.

“There was no subject more endearing or inspiring to capture through my lens”

Upon returning home, brimming with pride over one of the first photos I ever captured, I eagerly acquired a camera of my own, embarking on a journey of relentless practice and determination. My goal was clear: to hone my skills until I could rightfully claim a place among the masters of the craft.

As I delved into the intricacies of photography, mastering the delicate balance of shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, my muse and preferred subject became my daughter, Juliana. There was no subject more endearing or inspiring to capture through my lens.

With the fundamentals firmly in grasp, I ventured into uncharted territory, exploring the intangible realms of emotion, connection, and meaning—elements seldom addressed in conventional photography literature. The portraits of my daughter were imbued with a sense of wonder, tinged with a poignant awareness of the uncertain future she would inherit. Later, when I felt confident enough to photograph people on my travels, I brought that same sense of connection, compassion, and urgency.

© Cristina Mittermeier

With the fundamentals firmly in grasp, I ventured into uncharted territory, exploring the intangible realms of emotion, connection, and meaning—elements seldom addressed in conventional photography literature. The portraits of my daughter were imbued with a sense of wonder, tinged with a poignant awareness of the uncertain future she would inherit. Later, when I felt confident enough to photograph people on my travels, I brought that same sense of connection, compassion, and urgency.
Becoming a photographer is a lifelong pursuit, and my true photography purpose, therefore came later in life, long after I had completed my studies in marine sciences and nurtured my small family. I have always felt the call of a cause worth fighting for—a passion to protect and preserve nature. It was only when faced with the monumental challenges plaguing humanity—such as the erosion of democracy, the climate crisis, and ongoing conflicts—that I recognized the transformative power of art and creativity in effecting change, and challenging misconceptions. All these years I have worked to inspire viewers to engage, marvel, and take action in defense of our living world.

© Cristina Mittermeier

“For me, photography with purpose transcends mere visual aesthetics”

Thus, I made a conscious decision to direct my lens towards the urgent crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, recognizing them as intertwined and pressing issues of our era. Focusing on the vision of the future I wish to inhabit, each click of the shutter aimed to give back to communities and advocate for the preservation of our planet’s precious ecosystems. For me, photography with purpose transcends mere visual aesthetics; it serves as a potent tool for fostering a healthier, safer world. Photography informs, innovates, and advocates for our planet’s future. Without these added elements, it risks languishing in the realm of superficial beauty, akin to mere “postcards” devoid of substance.
Within the wide conservation disciplines, my ultimate aspiration has always been a thriving and healthy ocean, an area sorely lacking in funding among sustainable goals. Upon realizing this disparity, I couldn’t help but ponder: why the neglect? It seems many fail to grasp their connection to the ocean, despite it being the largest and most vital ecosystem on our planet. Determined to bridge this gap, I’ve dedicated a significant portion of my art and photography to highlighting the ocean’s importance. Through photography, I’ve discovered a means to capture the beauty and essence of life beneath the surface, fostering a newfound appreciation for the science and solutions crucial to its preservation.

© Cristina Mittermeier

“… a resource I yearned for in my own journey.”

Reflecting on my early days in photography, amidst the burgeoning era of the late ’90s and early 2000s, I recall the challenges of seeking knowledge without the aid of modern digital resources. However, aspiring photographers today possess an array of tools at their disposal. It’s in this spirit that I created my Masters of Photography course, available here on the Masters of Photography site (add link)—a resource I yearned for in my own journey.
This immersive course not only imparts technical expertise but also guides participants on a journey of self-discovery through the lens. It’s an invaluable companion for those seeking to translate their passion into a lifelong commitment. It is a comprehensive program that serves multiple purposes: to share the wealth of knowledge amassed throughout my career, to mentor a broader audience than I could in person, and to cultivate a community of photographers dedicated to addressing the world’s challenges.
The course is not just an educational journey; it’s an investment in oneself. My ultimate hope is that it will help participants develop a skill that adds immense value to their lives and our shared humanity on this beautiful planet.
And if you’ve ever found yourself questioning your life’s direction and, indeed, your photography purpose, let me offer you a piece of wisdom gleaned from my own journey: pursue your passions boldly and with unwavering fervor. Exercise patience; your path will reveal itself in due time.

Cristina Mittermeier – Online Photography Courses

cristina Mittermeier

Cristina Mittermeier teaches “photography with a purpose”.
Learn the art of creating storytelling images that help effect environmental change
45+ episodes · 6hrs of content
Competition Prizes · Live Q&A · Bonus Episodes

Cristina Mittermeier Courses

cristina Mittermeier

Cristina Mittermeier teaches “photography with a purpose”.
Learn the art of creating storytelling images that help effect environmental change
45+ episodes · 6hrs of content
Competition Prizes · Live Q&A · Bonus Episodes

Cristina Mittermeier Courses

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