On a mission

Stephen McNulty’s desire was simple enough. He wanted to photograph poison frogs. Complicating things was their location: the Amazon rain forest.

Curator of Canton’s Joseph Saxton Gallery has a passion for fine art photography

Stephen McNulty’s desire was simple enough. He wanted to photograph poison frogs. Complicating things was their location: the Amazon rain forest.

But McNulty, a 26-year-old Hoover High School grad, is one tenacious adventurer. Shooting the frog photograph reproduced here required a quest worthy of Hollywood, or at least a National Geographic special.

McNulty had been exploring Peru for about six weeks and located not a single poison frog, when he received a tip on their whereabouts.

First, he traveled to a remote river town in the Andes Mountains, where he met up with a man who took him on a two-hour trip down the Amazon in a dugout canoe.

“Here I am, this goofy white guy with a bright yellow camera bag in the middle of the Amazon,” he recalls. “I could have not stood out more.”

He had $12 in his pocket and about $20,000 worth of camera gear in his bag. He barely could speak the native language. This canoe trip wound up at another village of grass huts, where, armed with only a slip of paper with a name written on it, he located a second guide who pulled on rubber boots and took McNulty on a vigorous two-hour hike through the humid rain forest.

And then — eureka! At a private nature reserve, “I found my frogs, seven species in one day,” he says. “About 20 total frogs.”

Peru is just one of the exotic locales McNulty has visited in search of photographic subjects, vivid nature and memorable life experiences.

He has been to Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Fiji, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, the Bahamas and Alaska. He’s returning to New Zealand in November, and hopes to explore Iceland in June.

“When I go somewhere, I usually have a quarry,” he says. “Peru was for the frogs, New Zealand was for the landscapes, Samoa was for the children, and Alaska was for the bears.

“Hopefully, I’m not just a tourist. I like to think I’m a sojourner.”

While his travel destinations are desirably exotic, McNulty is not concerned with creature comforts upon arrival.

“To me, it’s a rare indulgence to stay in a hostel,” he says. “ ‘Roughing it’ is the right word. I’m usually a hot, sweaty, muddy mess.”

You’d never guess this from meeting McNulty at downtown Canton’s elegant Joseph Saxton Gallery of Photography, where the ponytailed nature photographer wears a shirt and tie. He is the gallery’s general manager and curator, and a selection of his framed color images can be viewed there.

McNulty’s work also can be seen locally at 2nd April Galerie and Cyrus Custom Framing & Art Gallery, and in a current exhibition titled “Animal Instincts” at Gallery 6000 in the Professional Education and Conference Center at Kent State University Stark Campus.

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