When they need new gear, most photographers buy it at a store or online. But Charlie Hamilton James’s work as a photojournalist specializing in wildlife and conservation also requires specialized equipment, such as remote cameras and camera traps, much of which he makes himself. Charlie has a particular interest in exposing “the brilliance of nature” in order to better document, understand, and save it. He has been obsessed with kingfishers—brightly plumed ambush hunters—since he was six, and describes himself as “an otter nut.” He has since become an authority on both, photographing kingfishers for National Geographic in 2009 and river otters in 2013. Other stories for the magazine have included the plight of vultures, which he calls “the ultimate anti-heroes,” in East and southern Africa.
We always go and look at these places to see how different we are. What we actually realize is how similar we are.
Much of Charlie’s work is done in North America, East Africa, and the Amazon. A few years ago, he purchased a 100-acre plot of land in Peru, only to learn he had acquired an illegal coca plantation along with it. His adventures and misadventures were featured in the June 2016 issue of National Geographic and a three-part series by the BBC entitled I Bought a Rainforest.
When not in the field photographing, Charlie also does on-air work as a TV presenter for various BBC programs, including Halcyon River Diaries, which documented the year he and his family spent living on the river outside their house. Charlie has been nominated for Emmy awards for his TV production work and twice won the Royal Television Society award for photography.
For the May National Geographic story celebrating the National Park Service centennial in 2016, Charlie went beyond the park’s boundaries from Wyoming into Idaho and Montana to create a portrait of the one of the largest temperate-zone ecosystems on Earth. And in the October 2018 issue Charlie photographed isolated tribes in the Amazon.
He lives in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.