Photographer of the Month: Curtis Cunningham

Jordan Oram's picture

Northern British Columbia is a land of mountains and rivers, waterfalls and wonders. The town of Smithers exemplifies the history of the region. From railway expansion across Canada, to mining development, town-building, and agriculture spreading across the Bulkley Valley, it is a slice of humanity surrounded by vast stretches of wilderness. It is here you’ll find our Photographer of the Month. Through his lens and his voice he spins tales and shares images that shine a light on this unique corner of our world. It’s my pleasure this month to direct your gazes to the work and words of Curtis Cunningham.

Photographer Curtis Cunningham - snowy river

Photographer Curtis Cunningham - seagull in mist

Photographer Curtis Cunningham - snow!

How did you get interested in photography?

Two things immediately come to mind. First is the culture of the photograph that I grew up immersed in. My maternal grandfather was an avid photographer and I can remember countless slideshows whenever my family would be visiting. That sense of the importance of a photograph was passed on to my mother, and can to this day be attested to by the volumes of photo albums that have an important place in her home. The second thing was the gift of a Canon Digital Rebel that my mother bought for me as a gift to help document the year that I spent teaching English in China after I graduated from university in 1994. After my teaching duties were done each day, I would go walking for hours in the streets, exploring as I went, and documenting my journey with this camera.

Photographer Curtis Cunningham - sunset

Photographer Curtis Cunningham - misty morning

How long have you been a photographer?

I would say it began to become more serious for me during this year in China. I can see now where my love of discovering the details and stories of any given place comes from.

What is your favorite place to photograph? Or subject?

While I love exploring and finding interesting places or things to photograph, my favourite experience is returning to the same place over and over again and discovering new perspectives. Just the other day, my son and dog and I were up in the forest walking along a well-worn trail, when my son suggested going down a new path we had never been on before. Situations like this are as close to Christmas as I can get when it’s not December 25th.

Photographer Curtis Cunningham - moonrise over mountains

Photographer Curtis Cunningham - at rest

Photographer Curtis Cunningham - light

How can photographers help change/impact the world, while they are traveling?

Just tell the story of the people you come in contact with. If you come across a situation that does something to your heart, document it with your camera and your words, and then when you return home write about it. I would also say to search out photojournalists and learn about their daily lives in the variety of circumstances they come across.

Two photographers immediately come to mind whose work I would highly recommend checking out: Chris Jordan and James Nachtwey. Chris focuses his work on American consumerism, and James is a photojournalist and war photographer.

Photographer Curtis Cunningham - morning on the mountains

Photographer Curtis Cunningham - autumn

Photographer Curtis Cunningham - fireworks

Are there rules in other countries people need to be aware of about who or what you can or cannot shoot?

Personally there have been very few times in my life where there have been explicit rules forbidding photography. Although I have been approached by mall security guards in Philadelphia, PA, Langley BC, and Casino security in Palm Springs, CA and been told to put my camera away. I also remember photographing someone sleeping on some chairs in an open storefront in China. The elderly lady standing on some steps started running after me, trying to spit on me. There are some cultures that don’t like being photographed because there’s a belief that their soul is taken whenever a photograph is taken of them. Oh, and don’t take your tripod to the top of the Empire State Building in Manhattan.

Photographer Curtis Cunningham - catching air

Photographer Curtis Cunningham - blue light

Photographer Curtis Cunningham - shark jaws

Any photography tips you want to share?

Read voraciously, whether it be online, or in print, about anything related to photography. You'll never know what will spark your interest, and send you careening down the path of creativity. I always tell people who tell me they're not very good at photography to simply get out there and shoot. Experiment with new techniques, as the practice you undertake, will, in time, produce the fruit of amazing photographs you'd never believe you could have made.

Photographer Curtis Cunningham - lucky citrus water

Photographer Curtis Cunningham - best view in the world

Photographer Curtis Cunningham - fog and shadows

Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

The leader of a photography workshop I took years ago gave all those who took his course a little pin with the word PLAY written on it. It’s a good reminder to enjoy the experiences you have when you are out making photographs, to slow down and not rush. Take your time and relish the time.

Find me at

Thanks for this opportunity to share a little bit about my passion of turning ordinary life into extraordinary art.

Photographer Curtis Cunningham - blue sunrise

Photographer Curtis Cunningham - flickers

Photographer Curtis Cunningham - through the clouds


You can find Curtis online at:


And here on Wandering Educators, as our Northern BC Editor!





Jordan Oram is the Photography Editor for Wandering Educators.

He has a passion for encouraging and empowering others to realize the combinations of their unique passions and strengths. In April of 2012, with $250 to his name, he travelled more than 10,000 km, over 8 months, across Canada and back, to encourage people to rock out their awesomeness. Find him at




All photos courtesy and copyright Curtis Cunningham