At RYZ we interview creative and motivated people who are actively pursuing their dreams. Today we interview Jonathan Lavan, an entrepreneur from San Diego, California:
Jonathan Lavan is the owner/operator of Underpressure Diving & Nature Photography. He is a citizen scientist and wildlife expert and has been SCUBA Diving for thirty years and taking photographs both above and below the waterline for more than ten. As an underwater and topside photographer, he has been a teacher, speaker, author and research associate for many different well-known and little-known environmental organizations. He leads diving/photography and naturalist trips all over the world. Since moving to California in 2015 he has been working with several local grass-roots conservation educational organizations. His work has shown in major cities across the country in a wide variety of venues. He shares his on-line images at no charge with any environmental education non-profit that inquires. He is a staunch environmentalist and educator of young people. Jonathan is committed to making a difference on this planet through his images and his message of goodwill to all creatures.
What was your background before you became an entrepreneur?
I am an entrepreneur as a necessity to further my art and my mission as an environmentalist. Previous to photography I acted, directed and produced theatre and film in Chicago. I was also an owner and curator of an art gallery that featured emerging artists. All of this honed my abilities to manage many moving parts and engage people in new ideas.
I had been SCUBA diving for some time and many people would ask: “what do you see down there…why do you find it so fascinating?”. As good as I am at describing things it is difficult to describe a different world on our own planet. Taking photographs was the next best thing. And I found out quite quickly that I was good at it. I also have a natural affinity for animal/biology identification and public speaking. So the combination of those three things quickly became my passion. So it was not so much one defining moment as it was a coming together of talents and abilities I had been courting for some time.
Tell us a little about some of the projects/works that you have created?
I was integral in creating REEF’s (the Reef Environmental Education Foundation) online fish and creature identification class series. I also taught the majority of the classes using humor and fun mnemonics to help people remember what animals they were seeing while diving while utilizing my nature photos as a teaching tool.
I am in the preliminary stages of publishing a book with Dayton Publishing geared towards young adults. It will deal with our interconnectedness to the rest of the natural world. It will feature many of my best photos. It is my hope to show the next generation just how important all the creatures, including us, are to each other.
Who would you say are the people that have influenced you the most?
Henry David Thoreau, Rachel Carson, Jacques Cousteau, David Attenborough. All naturalist and radicals for their time.
What are some of the challenges that you have faced and how do you face new challenges?
Getting people to purchase nature photography and art in general is a constant hustle. Food and shelter are definitely necessities but to have a healthy soul you need art and beauty around you all the time. Most people don’t get that.
Late last year I had a exhibition at an art gallery in Chicago. The guy who I had owned the galley with back in the 90’s asked me to do a show of my work. The work was on a large scale, mostly giant canvases. It looked incredible. But more than that it brought together twenty years of friends, many who I had not seen in years; actors, artists and activists, all the people who helped to make me who I am.
Do you have any advice for an aspiring entrepreneur?
Do what you love everyday (practice makes perfect) and never stop sharing your passion with the world.
Where can people go to learn more about your work?
There are currently 2700 different images at my website: www.underpressurephotog.com with more being added all the time. Underpressure Nature Photography on FaceBook and @jonathanlavan on Instagram.