Photographer Interview – Sarah Bartell

Sarah Bartell

Website & places you can find my work online
Flickr: Little Lioness

Where I am
Currently, I’m living in Portland, Oregon

Tell us a little about you, what is your background & where do you come from?
I’m a bit of a world traveler—haven’t really stuck around in one place for too long. I like to think it’s because I’m adventuresome, but it’s really got more to do with my dad’s job.

By the time I was five years old, I was living in Jakarta, and had traveled to Bali, Lombok, and Komodo Island. Other places I’ve lived include Singapore and England. But what really brings out the thrill-seeker in me is photography.

I love to be on the edge of everything when I have a camera in hand. Whether I’m shooting wildlife, people, nature, or sports, there is no such thing as too close to the action.

Sarah's work

On more than one occasion, I’ve been roared, hissed, and growled at by my animal subjects, and was once chased down the street by a disgruntled Portlander.

My camera has survived lightning storms in New York, a week-long backpacking trip in the High Desert of Central Oregon, mosh pits in Mexico, and multiple snowboarding trips to the top of Mt. Hood.

When did you take your first picture?
I took my first ‘real’ photo at a wildlife park in Bandon, Oregon when I was fourteen. The subject was a Canada lynx named Victoria. Today, it’s still one of my favorite photos.

What kind of camera do you use?
I shoot with a Canon EOS Rebel XTi.

If you could pick any camera (regardless of price) what would it be?
I’d be using a Canon EOS 1D Mark III.

Who are your main influences?
Willy Onarheim, Tommy Heinrich, Robb Kendrick, Steve Winter, Art Wolfe, and (of course) Ansel Adams.

Sarah's work

I’m sure you get tired of people telling you how talented you are for your age. I’d rather know what you are going to do with all of that talent?
I know by now that I certainly plan to pursue a career in adventure photography.

I feel very connected to the art and don’t think I could give it up—ever! If I have to give up a house and a comfortable, easy life in order to continue, I will. Life is far less enjoyable without a camera.

Your photography also carries a message about animals, what are the most important causes you follow?
I am highly-opposed to exotic animal ownership. Many of the captive animals I’ve photographed are in captivity because they’ve been taken from irresponsible and abusive owners. People in favor of exotic animal ownership say that it is beneficial to both the owner and the ‘pet’ but statistics show otherwise. I’m also fighting to help raise awareness for the irresponsible breeding of white tigers.

Sarah's work

You have done quite a bit of traveling, what is you favorite place on this planet so far?
Oddly enough, my favorite place on earth (so far) is a tiny cave on a mountainside near Vail, Colorado. I spent three days there in the snow, enjoying life as a “Transparent Eyeball.”

Where is next on your wish list?
Africa. I’ve always wanted to go there, ever since I was seven. It’s any wildlife photographer’s dream.

What is your favorite animal? Your favorite animal to photograph?
My favorite animal is the Amur leopard. They are considered the most intelligent of all big cats, and are absolutely beautiful. Sadly, though, they are expected to become extinct within the next ten years due to habitat loss and poaching.

My favorite animals to photograph are cats—big, small, and everything in-between.

Sarah's work

Where were you the most inspired, but without a camera?
Once a year in Downtown Portland, we have a so-called ‘Zombie Walk’. It’s a fund-raiser for the Oregon Food Bank in which all participants dress as zombies and shamble around on the streets of PDX, terrorizing uninformed citizens.

Somehow, I’d missed the memo and was stuck downtown in the middle of a zombie invasion without a camera. I felt even more depressed when I saw the photos in the newspaper the next day. They were amazing.

What effect do you think the Internet will have on art and photography in general?
The internet is a great tool for getting my work ‘out there.’ But at the same time, it can be a real drag. Not everyone respects copyright laws, and I now have to watermark all my online photos to prevent thievery.

Sarah's work

Has it had an effect on yours?
A few months ago, I was contacted by a graphic designer who wanted to use one of my photographs for a book cover. He said it was no big deal; they expected it to be small-scale; nothing big.

The Picture of Contented New WealthBut the novel (called ‘The Picture of Contented New Wealth’ by Tariq Goddard) is now scheduled to be published in both the United States and the UK by September. It’s been getting stunning reviews, and I’m pretty stoked about it. If I hadn’t posted that photo on the internet, said graphic designer would never have found it, and I’d never have had this opportunity.

On the other hand, though, I’ve had to handle lot of copyright infringement. It’s hell to deal with: There’s a lot of furious e-mailing, phone calls—even snail-mail to be sent! And after all that, still not everyone chooses to respect said copyright laws. I just have to let the crook know that I don’t take thievery lightly, and that if it comes down to it, I will not hesitate to press charges.

Which one is your personal favorite image?
My personal favorite image is actually a compilation of two separate shots I took on the same night.

We were flying through a thunderstorm on our way back from Canada one year, and there was a massive amount of cloud-to-cloud lightning outside the window.

I was lucky enough to be seated within view of the wing, so I used that in the composition as a comparison for size and distance. It was like flying through a WWII war zone.

Sarah's work

What else are you passionate about?
Lots of things! I’m an avid writer, painter, and snowboarder, but I also enjoy hiking, fishing, and kayaking.

Above all, though, I am passionate about nature and conservation. From second grade onward, I spent hours reading up on local wildlife, and took several tracking courses over the years so I could identify tracks, scat, and bones left by animals while I was out on my hikes.

I probably dedicated more time to researching my favorite animals than I did watching TV and playing on the computer like most ‘normal’ kids. Today, I still soak up any and all information I can.

If you had to sum up how you feel about animals in one sentence, what would it be?
Animals deserve the utmost respect, for they do not fail as we do:

Humans are the only creatures known to kill out of spite, and to exploit their own for hate; for this, each animal deserves twice as beautiful a life as each of us…

More to Come

Thanks to Sarah for answering the interview and sharing her photography. Be sure to check out her flickr profile periodically for updates about her latest stuff.

Also stay tuned for more interviews with horse artists and photographers.
Are you a horse artist or do you know an equine artist you’d like to see featured? Add your name and website in the comments below or drop me a note to get involved.

7 Comments on “Photographer Interview – Sarah Bartell

  1. nature photography

    I want to commend you on your Caiman image-stunning work. I’m curious about it’s location?

  2. Debbie Robinson

    Hi Sarah
    It was so nice to meet you the other week with your parents on the beach in Cayman. I just wanted to say hi and stay in touch. I also want to purchase that sunset picture. Hope you read this.
    Contact me anytime.

  3. Roxanna Maria

    Hi Sarah,
    Yur spirit shows through your work. It’s wonderful! There is a photgraph of an old house floating around and it has caught many an eye. Can you tell me where you took the photograph at. also what it is called and the story behind it. Thank you
    Artistically YO\ours
    Roxanna Maria

  4. ron bernstein

    I carve birds (my bald eagle) of 2nd growth – a blow-down – took me 2 years ( I carve for zen-like pleasure)
    I need a photo of a raven or 2 for my new carving – saw your photo ( Getty – 2009 ) and it is perfect for head,neck,etc. feathers – the feather patterns are incredible on this bird.
    So what I need is a copy of your photo(s) of the raven. How can I purchase it – etc.
    p.s. the eagle is on stones in a creek grasping a “humpie” (salmon) – the raven will be on another stone,
    scolding the eagle, and will be carved from linden (aka basswood or limewood).

Comments are closed.