Sebastian Copeland is a photographer and environmental activist. Copeland grew up in France and Britain, and graduated from UCLA in 1987 with a major in film. Throughout the 1990’s, Copeland directed commercials – everything from soft drinks to sportswear – as well as music videos. He is also known for his celebrity portraiture; he’s taken pictures of Sandra Bullock, Kate Bosworth, and Orlando Bloom (who is also his cousin), among others. In recent years, Copeland has focused on environmental activism. He serves on the Board of Directors of Global Green USA and recently published Antarctica: The Global Warning
Question: How did you get into photography?
Copeland: Photography picked me more than I picked it. I was conditioned at an early age to appreciate nature photography through my grandfather who’s . . . who was Irish. And he left Ireland in the 1920s and moved to India. He was a doctor. And in the early part of his life he was engaged in safaris and whatnot, which is not that glorious looking back in retrospect because he shot tigers and whatnot. But in the ‘20s and ‘30s I suppose it had a different type of social imprint as we might examine today. But in his midlife he traded his gun for a camera, and so continued doing his safaris and expeditions both in India and later on in Africa, and Botswana, and Tanzania, and Namibia, and settled . . . He lived in Swaziland just north of South Africa. So his body of photography work was impressed upon me at an early age through slide shows. And I sat through many slide shows of watching elephants and giraffes and whatnot. So that was my sort of early affinity to landscape photography, and I started taking pictures in South Africa myself when I was about 12 on, you know . . . on safaris and whatnot. And then that just progressed and I was . . . I somehow was picked to shoot, and I translated that into a career in advertising where I did a lot of directing, actually, of commercials and music videos. And then I decided to focus more specifically on photography and get out of advertising. I wasn’t entirely comfortable – eventually as I developed as an advocate – with promoting messages of consumerism. So I . . . I settled on portrait photography for a career earning potential. And then of course I followed with my advocacy work and landscape photography. Recorded on: 12/3/07