Steve was introduced to nature through the underwater world at age nine, and soon became a keen spearfishing enthusiast. During the fifties and sixties, Australians' attitude to the environment was vastly different than it is today. When I was a kid, there were gun shops on every city street corner. Today, book and camera shops line the streets, Parish explains.
Steve was only sixteen when he met his mentor, underwater photographer Igo Oak. It was then that his fascination with marine life was transferred from hunting with a spear gun to recording his discoveries on film. Despite being young and inexperienced, the idea of being able to share his discoveries with others was captivating; although his earliest efforts were on the blurry side.
Fortunately, he persevered. Determination was something Steve was later to develop in spades when, in 1963, at the tender age of eighteen, he enrolled as a navy diver for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). In the navy, giving up was simply not tolerated, Parish laughs. He had little choice but to struggle through the difficult, no-nonsense training to take up a position as a Search and Rescue Diver at Jervis Bay in southern New South Wales. He then joined the New South Wales Underwater Research Group, a band of extremely enthusiastic underwater naturalists who collected and photographed specimens for the Australian Museum. Encouraged by senior museum staff, Parish and his colleagues all felt a pioneering spirit discovering and recording numerous marine species that were new to science. It was an exhilarating time for Steve.
Ever since this experience, Steve Parish has been inspiring others. First, he travelled the continent as a photojournalist creating books on the Great Dividing Range, the River Murray, the Outback and Kakadu for a major Australian publisher. Then he started his own company, Steve Parish Publishing, on New Year's Day 1985. For Steve, inspiring others and watching them become involved in promoting conservation is his greatest reward.
In 1974, Steve resigned from the RAN and headed north, where he joined the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service as a wildlife photographer. For the next five years, he had the fantastic opportunity of working with the department's specialist scientists to photograph and document a range of animals from across Queensland's diverse habitats. No longer was his focus entirely on marine life; his cameras now recorded birds, mammals, reptiles and frogs. Following five years of this work, Steve resigned to freelance Australia-wide.
After three years on the road celebrating this spectacular nation I wanted to share what I'd discovered with others not just other Australians, but with people all around the world, Parish enthuses.
It truly was astonishing, the depth and breadth of this land. I really felt a calling to show it to others; to ensure that we not only appreciated what we have down here, down under, but that we were willing to protect it, too. At the time I started Steve Parish Publishing, environmental issues were only just coming to the fore. People were beginning to question what we were doing to nature. I still feel that nature is under attack and it is enormously frustrating that we continue to march hell-bent on destroying what we love and what is necessary for us both spiritually and materially as it is for all life forms.
Educating others was my primary objective in starting the company. It wasn't just about taking spectacular images, although that is extremely rewarding, too. It was about promoting an understanding for the importance of nature. The first step has to be to light a fire in someone inspire them to learn more, inspire them to genuinely become one with nature, urge them to connect with it and to celebrate its beauty and diversity. Then let's talk about saving it.
Unfortunately, Parish implies, few people of his own generation got that message when they were young, so the company's focus today is on the youth.