From the Darling Downs to his current base in California, award-winning photographer Jon McCormack is opening eyes across the world as he combines his artistry with philanthropy.

A childhood spent on a cattle and sheep station near Surat was the starting point of a worldwide voyage for Jon McCormack, whose passion for photography has taken him to some of the most remote and visually captivating parts of the globe.

Having attended Downlands College in Toowoomba, Jon graduated from the University of Queensland before moving to the United States in 1992 to pursue a career in the software industry. The move has proved successful for Jon, who is now Vice President of Kindle Software at Amazon.

With a career affording him flexibility for world travel, he has continued to pursue his lifelong love of photography, a modestly described “hobby” which has led to his work being included in exhibits at the Royal Geographic Society in London and the Yosemite Museum.
“I’ve actually been taking photos all of my life. The Darling Downs is an extraordinarily photogenic place and that’s where I got my start.”

Although Jon has settled in California with American wife Caren and their two daughters, a recent trip to Montana has him thinking about an expedition back to the Darling Downs where he would like to spend some time on cattle stations photographing daily life. Jon confesses that he had not been on a horse since he left Downlands 25 years ago, but happily took to the saddle again in Montana. “It took me right back to my childhood in Surat. The sounds and smells of being in a cattle yard brought back great memories,” he says.

With international news organisations such as CNN and The New York Times having published his photographs, Jon remains humble about his photography success, which he defines as being able to bring attention to important issues. One such issue was highlighted by his recent trip to Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest, the world’s only known habitat of the endangered kermode, or ‘spirit bear’. Jon was fortunate – and intrepid – enough to have an up-close encounter with one of these extremely rare white bears and describes the experience as “by far the most profound thing I have done with my camera”.

The issue that is dearest to Jon’s heart, though, is undoubtedly The Kilgoris Project, a charity organisation which he and Caren founded to bring food and education to the children of the Maasai village in Kenya. Starting with the establishment of one school for 50 children, the project is now funding six schools and the education of more than 800 students. Jon describes his involvement in the project, and seeing these children being freed from a life of extreme poverty by education, as “pure joy”.

View more examples of Jon’s stunning photography, including his recent Spirit Bear encounter, at www.jonmccormack.com. To find out more about The Kilgoris Project, or to make a donation, visit www.kilgoris.org.

Words by Deborah Disney | Images by  Jon McCormack