Neil Irwin is an outdoor and adventure photographer and filmmaker based in the UK, specialising in capturing interesting and adventurous stories and people.
In this piece he writes about his ambition to turn his storytelling skills to more impactful adventures, like scientific research expeditions. If you have any leads as to projects that could be open to working with Neil, he’d love to hear from you through his website.
Storytelling: the art of recounting myths, legends and true events from one person or generation to the next. It has been around longer than recorded history. Whether through word of mouth or written text, the idea is the same: to convey meaning, often in the hope of inspiring awe, wonder and intrigue.
Although we’ve never had so many stories at our fingertips, stories that truly interest each one of us are at risk of being diluted and pushed aside in a mass-media influx of fake news and celebrity gossip. You have to dig around for the content that you specifically want, unless you’re already following a specific niche.
Don’t get me wrong, there are already many inspiring people out there doing great things. Presenter and naturalist Steve Backshall comes to mind, with his expeditions and charity projects. But he’s in the public eye - a celebrity himself with shows across TV. What about some unsung heroes? What about expeditions led by researchers, institutions and organisations?
As far as I’m aware, their work generally goes unnoticed, with their findings and data hidden in research journals. I’m sure many of these people have amazing and important stories to tell - not only in terms of their findings, but also their journeys to get there, which surely include incidents, suspense and action like many adventure stories. Who, in the name of scientific progress, wouldn’t be interested in hearing of the discovery of a completely new species, or near-death experiences or magical experiences that are hard to describe but possible to bring to life through storytelling?
It’s this kind of purposeful adventure that I find most interesting. Everyone has a part of them that longs to go off on an adventure and explore what is for them uncharted territory, whether that be a long adventurous trip of sorts or a short getaway to somewhere new. But to be able to visit some truly unique places with a specific mission: I think this would make an adventurous journey even more special.
Today more and more people are thinking about their own lives and the impacts they and their decisions are having, especially in terms of sustainability and carbon footprint. This translates into a potentially growing appetite for adventure stories that are concerned about impact.
We see brands sending their sponsored athletes to far-flung parts of the world to tackle interesting challenges that are undoubtedly inspiring to watch. They make me want to head to these places myself, to see them with my own eyes. But why aren’t more brands also doing something meaningful with these athletes at the same time? If companies have the power and money to make such trips happen, why not do some good along the way?
Collecting research data, helping a charity or organisation already out there, or perhaps speaking to locals about how their environment is changing and seeing what challenges they face as our world changes faster than ever: these are all important, potentially adventurous challenges that I for one would love to see top brands covering more.
For this reason I’d like to get involved more with the scientific community, to help tell stories not only of human endeavours (which is what I love to tell stories about), but also the research people are conducting through these endeavours.
I’m an outdoor and adventure photographer, filmmaker and writer. I love to shoot people in remarkable situations and must admit I am sometimes distracted taking pretty photos for the sake of pretty photos (which can be fun!). But as I’m getting older and thinking more about my future and the legacy I’d like to leave behind through my work, I’d like to think that I did some good in the world.
I’m now at a point where I feel like I’d like to do something more meaningful with my skillset and to tell stories of others who are uncovering and researching some amazing things on this planet we call home. Because, what are we, without stories?
Do you have any ideas as to how Neil might tell adventure stories of impact, whether relating to scientific research or something else? If so he would love to hear from you at his website or Instagram.