Wildlife Photographer India Bulkeley Is Living the Wild Life

Samantha Jacobs Art, Artist Profiles, Photography, Social Media, Visual Arts 0 Comments

India Bulkeley followed her passion.

Now she is a wildlife photographer living in Kenya, seeking nature’s most candid moments and working the best job in the world. Behind the scenes, she is building her social media following along with her artistic confidence.

India is in Kenya. No, your geography knowledge isn’t wrong. Wildlife photographer and Naibor Camp Manager India Bulkeley is living in Africa to follow her passion, hone her trade, bring awareness to animal endangerment and experience the world of wildlife up close and personal. Packing up and moving across the world after graduating from the University of Southern California, India is indulging her wanderlust and her commitment to become a wildlife photographer in a beautiful place provides unforgettable lessons and moments. While generously sharing her experience living abroad as a wildlife photographer with me, India also offered some advice for aspiring photographers.

Samantha Jacobs: Can you explain where you work right now, and what your job is?

India Bulkeley: I have the best job in the world. I work as a manager at Naibor, a tented camp in the heart of the Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya. As manager, I do a little bit of everything including leading a staff of 30+ people, hosting guests, and completing general office work. I’m lucky I get to wake up every day and do what I love. Living in such a beautiful place has let me follow my passion: photography. In my spare time, I’m trying to grow my portfolio with the hopes of making it a primary career in the future.

A beautiful foggy sunrise in paradise

A post shared by India Bulkeley Photography (@indiabulkeley) on

SJ: When did your passion for photography start? And what about your passion for wildlife?

IB: I’ve loved being behind a camera since I was a kid. I found photography to be a great way to gain a new look at your surroundings and explore new places. My favorite subjects are people, but it was in the last two years that I realized my passion for wildlife. This passion grew mostly from living in such close proximity to amazing reserves and parks in Kenya. It’s a privilege to live in a place which is considered one of the premier wildlife destinations in the world. I can leave my home and be photographing lions, elephants, gazelles, etc. in a matter of minutes. Photographing wildlife is incredibly challenging and can thus be very rewarding. It’s a combination of luck and skill and no two shots are ever the same.

“I hope that my work introduces people to animals and places that they don’t know a lot about. I have plans to use my photography to draw light on the extinction crisis facing many animals today such as elephants, rhinos, and cheetahs.”

SJ: Why and when did you decide to move to Africa?

IB: When I graduated from college, I received a one-year fellowship to do communications work for a nonprofit in Kenya, the BOMA Project. I spent a lot of time traveling in Northern Kenya interviewing (and photographing) participants in the program and falling in love with the country. In college I spent a semester abroad at the University of Cape Town and worked in Rwanda for a summer with opportunities to travel a bit in Southern and Eastern Africa. I returned home curious about other countries and parts of the continent. Kenya is a great place to live especially for people interested in wildlife, photography, and a great quality of life.

Via: http://www.indiabulkeley.com/portraits/

SJ: Describe a typical day at work.

IB: I usually wake up and start work between 6:30 and 7:30 every day. I’m lucky that the commute between my home and office is about a 3-minute walk. I start by seeing guests off on their morning game drives and then doing paperwork, emails, etc. for the bulk of the morning. The afternoons are usually a bit quieter. I get to go on a game drive about once (twice if I’m lucky) a week depending on how busy we are. In the evenings, I host dinners and head to bed around 10 pm.

“It’s a combination of luck and skill and no two shots are ever the same.”

SJ: How does social media affect your job?

IB: Social media has been a really big part of getting my photos and name out there. I’ve been able to connect with photographers around the world and have been approached by many people interested in my photos. It’s also been a good way to do easy publicity for my camp. Pictures are a great marketing tool and nowadays a lot of people pick their holidays based on photos they’ve seen of places they’d like to go.

My picture was selected yesterday as @natgeo Photo of the Day! I've never been featured before so I was very excited 🙂

A post shared by India Bulkeley Photography (@indiabulkeley) on

SJ: What are some ways in which you try to grow your professional social media following?

IB: I originally started with Instagram because it’s a platform I’m used to and really all about the photos. In order to gain more followers, I engage with other users who like wildlife or wildlife photography I’ve found that most people that follow me and regularly like my pictures are also photographers or have been on safari before. I’ve also recently begun using Facebook as a platform to tell the stories of my photos in greater detail.

A leopard strolls through the grass in the late afternoon sun. This beauty was photographed only 5 minutes out of camp!

Posted by India Bulkeley Photography on Wednesday, February 8, 2017

SJ: How do you avoid cliches in your photography? How do you make your photos unique?

IB: I’ve found that following the “rules” of photography is generally a good idea but with lots of exceptions. One of the rules of photography is to shoot with the light behind you, not in front of you. One of my favorite angles, however, is shooting into the sun in the early mornings or evenings when the light isn’t too strong. I love silhouette shots and playing around with light to give different effects. You can have a completely different picture of the same animal if you just change your angle. I am also a big fan of “panning” shots, something that makes my photos unique. Panning captures a moving animal in focus while the background is blurred. I like these shots because they are challenging and, if executed well, capture a beautiful sense of movement.

SJ: Do you feel you have a greater purpose connected to your work?

IB: Since I live in the same place I work and photograph, I definitely feel a greater connection to nature and the environment. I hope that my work introduces people to animals and places that they don’t know a lot about. I have plans to use my photography to draw light on the extinction crisis facing many animals today such as elephants, rhinos, and cheetahs. People react to images and stories so I think there are many ways to help conservation efforts through using those as tools. One of my big goals for the next two years is to have an exhibit with a portion of the proceeds going to conservation work.

Close-up of a white rhino munching on some grass in Ol Pejeta conservancy. Such beautiful and sadly critically endangered animals

A post shared by India Bulkeley Photography (@indiabulkeley) on

SJ: What is the coolest thing you’ve seen on the job?

IB: Living in the Masai Mara for the past year, I’ve seen a lot of amazing things. One of the coolest was watching lions try to take down a very large hippo in the middle of the savannah. It was crazy to see lions jumping on a creature with skin more than an inch thick and playing with it like it was a toy. Luckily the lions got tired after a while and the hippo lived to see another day. Other than that, I find the little things are pretty spectacular. I love watching sunsets from across the plains, seeing animals huddle together during big storms, and hearing the river flowing from my desk.

The calm before the storm

Posted by India Bulkeley Photography on Friday, February 3, 2017

SJ: What are some lessons you’ve learned from working?

IB: The most important lesson I’ve learned is to always be ready. There are many times where I’ve missed the shot I wanted because I didn’t have my camera ready or was distracted. You can’t really tell a lion to go back and do that yawn again because you weren’t ready. Now I try to always keep my camera on standby and with the correct settings. Another important lesson I’ve learned is that patience pays off. Some of the best pictures I’ve taken are the product of waiting (sometimes for minutes, sometimes for hours) for an animal to wake up, for the light to change, etc.


SJ: Do you have any advice for aspiring photographers? And in particular, for aspiring photographers with an adventurous side and a bit of wanderlust?

IB: It may sound cliche, but fake it until you make it. Since photography is not yet my primary job, I felt self-conscious about calling myself a photographer. I recently started introducing myself a wildlife photographer and its done wonders for confidence. Doing things like creating a website and establishing a social media presence are great ways to get your foot in the door. For people who have a bit of a travel bug, marketing yourself online is a huge asset. One of my goals is to be able to use my social influence to help me travel to other parts of the world photographing wildlife.

“Start building your portfolio and find ways to travel. If international travel isn’t yet in your budget, visit national parks that are close by, go on a hike, or spend a day exploring and photographing your town. It’s amazing how much beauty you can find in your own backyard so take advantage of it!”


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India Bulkeley



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Bridging Art And Mental Health – Painted Brain

Marshall Ayers Student Resources, Visual Arts

Dave Leon, the founder and director of Painted Brain answers some questions for Artzray about the intersection of art, mental health and community. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and is driven in his work with Painted Brain by a vision of a world in which mental illness is truly accepted as one more aspect of the beautiful tapestry of difference that binds us together as humans. Painted Brain is focused on bridging the arts and mental health communities.

What is Painted Brain?

Painted Brain is a multifaceted attempt at solving a vexing societal problem, mental illness.  I started this project as a single art group to try to address the most pressing problem facing the young adults I met in the early years of my social work career – isolation.  I could encourage the people I was meeting, individually, to find social outlets, but where?  Mental illness sometimes effects the way a person interacts with others, increasing social isolation. This compounds the kinds of personal doubts and fears that often accompany mental health symptoms. The first art group that later became Painted Brain pulled people together around the commonality of mental illness and creativity, and it has done so ever since.

We run a community center in the MacArthur Park area of Los Angeles that is free and stocked full of art supplies.  We also have a speakers bureau, an online newspaper and extensive social media presence, and we run art groups as a service, train social workers and occupational therapists, and develop arts interventions to build community in existing spaces like housing facilities. But at the core, Painted Brain is a community of artists.

Are artists more prone to mental illness?

I am not a statistician but my sense is that mental illness is present in all areas of human functioning at about the same rate as it is present in the general population.  In other words, if schizophrenia effects 1 in 100 adults, I believe it is just as likely to effect 1 in 100 artists, business people, and even psychiatrists.  That said, I think being an artist increases some stressors that might exacerbate underlying mental health challenges.  Artists express themselves in ways that invite judgment and self-criticism.  Success can easily lead to excess and rejection brings a whole host of responses.  It seems that there is something introspective in the arts that is also present in people that live with mental illness, in that we have to think actively about how we think and operate in, and react to, the world.

Is making art about the art or about therapy?

For us, making art is about making the community.  Art is what brings people together and gives them neutral ground for creative communication.  Participation at Painted Brain is coming in to attend a group until you are ready to run a group yourself.  Creativity is something to share with others.

“It is not going to surprise anyone when I express my belief that art is good for everyone and that creativity is one of our core human traits.”

Does making art help someone cope with depression or other types of mental illness?

As a person who deals with depression fairly regularly, I absolutely believe that art is valuable in dealing with mental illness.  The biggest block, though, is our own inner critic, which tends to be cranked up high when we’re depressed.  Drawing is a good outlet for me when I am depressed because drawing is a medium I don’t take very seriously, which means I have nothing riding on the outcome.  My main creative outlet is classical music, specifically the most punishing of the string instruments, the double bass.  Classical is a great outlet for me because it serves all my moods so well.  When I am depressed in the register of hopelessness, I can practice something annoying and repetitive and obsessively technical, safe in the knowledge that I am building muscle memory even though I feel like shit.  When depression hits in the key of sadness or tragedy, I can bend towards the lugubrious.

Depression and mental illness impact our social presence, so art helps with mental illness in another way.  The environment of an art group or creative activity promotes the most freedom and acceptance of difference manageable, which is excellent for people dealing with mental health symptoms.  Art activities can serve as a great re-introduction to human interaction, and can bring out the best in us.  And if you don’t want to talk, you don’t have to.

Why does no one want to admit they have a mental illness? 

This is the real question.  Mental illness, at least from a diagnostic standpoint, has an impact on one in five adults.  It’s important to realize that to diagnosis is dependent on a level of distress and of dysfunction due to the symptoms.  One in five of us are or have been impaired in some manner by mental illness and yet we do not talk about it.  But it makes sense, since talking about oneself in terms of mental health symptoms is inherently vulnerable and potentially risky in most settings.  As a thought experiment: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you try to think of the most positive association with mental illness?

Finally, where did you get the name Painted Brain?

A group member came up with the idea back in 2005 — seemed perfect, instantly.

If you are a young artist dealing with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or any other type of mental illness, it’s good to know that there are organizations like Painted Brain that are working to offer support and build creative communities.

Featured images Painted Brain artists – Hope by Natasha, Old Man by Ned, Butterfly by Jason Munez

Mental Health Resources include:
PRPSN (Project Return, Peer Support Network) WARMLINE: 888-448-9777
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255
LA County – (Department of Mental Health) DMH Access Hotline: 800-854-7771

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The Simpsons (1989 to present)

The most important prime time animated show ever, rivaled only by The Flintstones in historical significance. There are those who claim that over the years the show went mainstream and lost its edge. I say that the Simpsons became the mainstream because it successfully moved the center of popular culture to an edgier place. No other show has stayed on the air for so long and managed to maintain the level of quality that the Simpsons has (take that, Meet the Press!)


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Los Angeles, CA. I grew up in the San Gabriel Valley.

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1. Responsibility

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Special Artzray Discount Offer – Save 20% on Design Studio Press purchases.

“Our mission is to feature and partner directly with artists.”

If you want to improve your skills and learn about drawing, illustration, concept art, mech, character and transportation design, sci-fi and fantasy – Design Studio Press has it all with over 70 titles to choose from, plus prints and limited editions.

Best of all, Artzray readers receive a 20% discount on books purchased from Design Studio Press if you use our promo code: ARTZRAY

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Copyright © Design Studio Press 2016

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