Steve Winter’s photographic journey began at the age of seven when his father, who was a member of the local camera club in their hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana, gave him an Instamatic. Soon, father and son were winning prizes in the annual Kodak snapshot contest. But it was seeing the work of the great photojournalists of National Geographic and Life magazines that made Steve dream of being a photographer.
After graduating from the Academy of Art and the University of San Francisco, Winter signed on as a photojournalist for Black Star Photo Agency. In 1991, he began shooting for the National Geographic Society. Since then, he has covered stories from Cuba’s wildlife to Russia's giant Kamchatka bears, but his central focus has been on the world’s big cats. He’s shot feature stories about tigers in Myanmar’s Hukawng Valley and the complex relationship between humans and leopards. His most recent feature, “The Shrinking Kingdom of the Jaguar,” appeared in the December 2017 issue of National Geographic. “If we can protect wide-ranging, large, iconic species like big cats that require huge tracts of land to survive—then we also help save ourselves,” he says.
I am trying to capture images that haven’t been seen before, to give people a reason to care not only about the animals I photograph but also help protect the ecosystems in which they live.
Steve’s photos, like the Hollywood Cougar, have become some of the most iconic images of our time. That particular photo has sparked construction in California of the world’s largest wildlife overpass. Along the way, Steve has been stalked by jaguars in Brazil, charged by a grizzly bear in Siberia, and trapped in quicksand in Myanmar. In some of the isolated locations he worked in, local people had never before seen a blond foreigner, let alone a camera.
His images have appeared in numerous publications, including GEO, TIME, and Stern. Among the numerous awards Steve has won are BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year, first prize in the Nature Story category from World Press Photo— twice—and also two times Picture of the Year International’s Global Vision Award. He has appeared on CBS Nightly News, 60 Minutes, NPR, the BBC, and other media outlets, and has filmed numerous shows for National Geographic Channel and Nat Geo Wild. In November 2013, National Geographic published Steve’s photography book Tigers Forever: Saving the World’s Most Endangered Cat.
At home in New Jersey, Winter lives with his wife, son, and several well-domesticated pets.
Find out about upcoming programs and expeditions with National Geographic photographers and view more work by Steve Winter.