John is a New Zealand born polar expedition photographer and an educator who has an emphasis on creating clean, authentic imagery in some of the most remote environments on our planet.
Hi John, tell us about yourself
I’m John Bozinov, a Kiwi born polar photographer and guide. I spend most of the year working on expedition vessels that operate in the polar regions, traveling to both Antarctica and the Arctic during their respective summer months.
Although I use many different cameras for my work, I consider myself an iPhone photographer, as for the last 6 years I’ve been documenting my travels to the poles primarily on my smartphone.
My journey into photography like most people in this line of work started out as a hobby which quickly developed into an obsession and eventually a career. I started out on solo road trips around New Zealand, taking pictures on my iPhone 4s and sleeping in my car for months at a time. It didn’t take long to discover my natural affinity for the cold and wildlife. Once I decided that I wanted to pursue photography professionally, my sights set to Antarctica.
After the last few years of working in the poles, today I find inspiration for my work in many places - through primarily from a desire to share the beauty of the polar regions with others. Antarctica doesn’t have a native population, so it’s up to all of us to advocate for its preservation and protection, and I think that’s easier for us to do when we have a deep appreciation of what’s there and what we have to lose.
What’s in your Camera Bag, Film, Digital or both?
I carry a variety of different camera equipment when working in the polar regions, all of which comes with one important caveat - it has to be well weather sealed. I’m exposed to a lot of water on a daily basis - rain, snow and the frustratingly corrosive salt water, so keeping my gear working when the weather isn’t cooperating is a top priority. I use Cannon mirrorless and DSLR cameras, DJI drones, and GoPro action cameras, but it’s no secret that one of my favourite cameras to shoot with is the iPhone. I always carry 2 with me while on expedition and I love how easily I can whip them out of my jacket pocket to take photos without having to worry about them getting wet. My Instagram account has been almost exclusively iPhone photos for the last few years and all of the photos I’ve supplied for this interview are iPhone shots too. In addition to my camera equipment, I always carry a spare pair of dry gloves, a GPS, binoculars and polarised sunglasses in my bag.
What’s your most memorable photo?
It’s the unexpected moments that are always the most memorable. There’s one photo that definitely comes to mind from a recent expedition in the Ross Sea. I’ve been fortunate enough to spend many months over the last few years working and driving Zodiacs (small inflatable boats) around penguin colonies in Antarctic and the subantarctic. During that time I’ve encountered thousands of penguins swimming in the water around me, but they’re mostly pretty apprehensive and or ignore me entirely. On this voyage I was driving my zodiac and saw a loan Chinstrap penguin calling out in the water off in the distance, so I slowly drove over to it and to my surprise it jumped into the boat. I still have no idea why, but it sat with us for a good 10 minutes before we ushered it back into the water and went on our way.
What does your next photography adventure look like?
My work has been affected by the ongoing pandemic, so my future plans for the polar regions are a little tentative right now. I’m hoping to be working in Antarctica again this November, but if that falls through my next big contract is for voyages in the Arctic (Svalbard and Greenland) and the North Pole in mid 2022.
How has photography evolved since you’ve started shooting?
It’s changed a lot. When I started my journey into photography there wasn’t such a strong focus on social media and the idea of an ‘influencer’ hadn’t been conceived yet. People shot subject matter and developed a photographic style that spoke to them personally, and reflected their tastes and interests. In short, there was a lot of diversity. As soon as social media followers and analytics became an important metric for getting work, photographers started taking pictures that performed well with a wide audience. Everything from subjects, locations, composition and editing style homogenised among many photographers with the goal of building a lager social media following. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, in many ways it’s a democratic evolution of the photography industry, but it’s also significantly reduced the diversity of work we see online.
Where will we find you when you’re not taking photos?
When I’m not away for work I’m still based in my hometown of Wellington in New Zealand where I grew up. Over the last few years of spending so much of my time living on ships I developed a bit of a passion for calisthenics, which is essentially just bodyweight and closed kinetic chain exercises. It’s not always easy to get in a workout when you don’t have access to gym facilities, so finding ways to manipulate leverages using just my body has been a huge tool in helping me keep relatively fit. I think it’s important for photographers who do a lot of outdoor field work to be in decent shape and I’ve found that hiking long distances with a backpack full of camera gear is definitely a lot easier when I make my physical wellbeing a priority. When I find myself back home I usually take it easy, I spend most of my time catching up with friends & family, packaging/sending off photo print orders and going to the gym a few times a week.
What advice have you got for the younger you, just starting out on your photography adventures?
I spent a lot of time early in my career obsessing over gear. I think in some ways I used it as a crutch - spending copious amounts of time researching the next best camera that would improve my photography rather than focusing on honing my skills and ameliorating my weaknesses. If I could give my past self advice, it would be that just like a sport, practice makes perfect with photography too, so it’s important to put in the reps (or shots) to build a stronger skillset.