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Q&A with the Project Founder

Matilda Bengtsson

2 feb. 2022

The start of the Jubilee Expedition: meet our Project Founder Jonas Paurell.

Meet our Project Founder Jonas Paurell. Jonas is a nature photographer, explorer and conservationist. He is also a certified International Mountain Leader (UIMLA). He initiated The Jubilee Expedition to be able to give something back to the wild and wonderful natural world that he loves.

Why did you decide to create the Jubilee Expedition?

I have a strong conviction that the greatest hurdle to effective conservation of wildlife and wilderness is the emotional and physical distance between humans and nature. I believe that we only protect what we love, and we only love what we know. In today's world, we are quite removed from nature. Many who live in cities don't really get a chance to establish a deep connection with nature. If this connection is missing, how can we get to know it? How can we love it? If we don't know or love it, why should we make personal sacrifices to protect it?

I feel that advocating for wildlife and wilderness conservation and the risks of climate change is something that I can do through my job as a nature photographer. For several years I have asked myself: how can I use my energy, skills, and knowledge to reach not just the people around me, but the world with these very same messages? For the longest time, I didn't have an answer. Then one day two years ago I was reading a book about Professor Nordenskiöld’s expeditions and it came to me - his incredible 1872-73 expedition was the answer that I had been looking for. The route is exactly at the farthest point that the northern polar ice reaches in winter. This means that the effects of climate change will be most visible there and there was a 150-year jubilee just around the corner. Recreating that historic journey as a scientific expedition was it - it was the story to reach the world. At that moment I became obsessed with the dream of making it a reality. Since then I have dedicated all my time to making this happen - and that's close to two years now.

Naturally, the expedition grew gradually from that simple idea to the multifaceted beast of a project that it is today. But the core idea is the same, the Jubilee Expedition is a way to share an important story of wildlife and wilderness conservation and the risks of climate change with our world seen through the eyes of the climate scientists that are working tirelessly to understand what we are doing to our world. To me, they are the heroes of our time. The Jubilee Expedition is about them. If people could see the sacrifice, perseverance, and courage of these heroes, I am convinced that we (the people of this beautiful planet) can do more to be better. It really is that simple.

Have you always worked as a nature photographer and guide?
No, quite the opposite. I had a corporate career as a strategist specialising in socially responsible growth and turn-around scenarios in Africa, and before that, I was a lawyer for the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. But about six years ago I just felt done with that world. I wanted to make my life-long passion for photography and storytelling my professional life and decided to become a full-time photographer. One of the best decisions I ever made.

How did you start with photography?
In around 1993, when I was about 13, my father gave me my first camera (a Pentax Program A from ca 1984) and I shot a terrible series of still life pictures of a squashed banana and also a few portraits of my dog, a German Shepard named Cicci. As I got the images from the local photo store, I knew that I had found something that was significant. This evolved through my late teenage years. At university, I shot for some student magazines, worked weekends at Fujifilm and Scandinavian Photo and served as the president of the university photo club. Photography was definitely more important to me than the law degree that I was working so hard to get.

As a photographer, what is your dream project?
I am not sure if I have a dream project. My main subject matter - nature - will, obviously, outlast me and is constantly evolving, which means that each time I go out to shoot it is new and fresh and I get to discover something that I hadn't seen before. Therefore, I take every moment as it comes and do my best to capture the moment that is now and in front of me. This said I could say that my dream photo project is my current one – The Jubilee Expedition - something that I have worked on for such a long time to come true.

What is your favourite food when on expeditions?
Anything that has either crispiness or crunchiness. When rehydrating dehydrated food everything turns into stews, soups, and mashes. After a week this gets really boring. To balance this, I often bring small bags of crisps, nachos, salty crackers and biscuits, and some frozen herbs like coriander and parsley to give it some freshness. I also love to bring locally sourced dried reindeer meat from Jämtland where I live.

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