Through the Eyes of Arby Lipman

Arby Lipman took his photographic art from the balcony of his home to the wilds of Africa. These days, you’ll find it on the walls of the Smithsonian after his vision of the world beat out 26,000 other photos for the top spot.

Arby Lipman was always attracted to the idea of being an artist, but there were a few hurdles to clear — first, he was born with colorblindness, and second, he could never draw or paint. Then, at age 25, he found his outlet. Temporarily laid up after a car accident, Lipman picked up a camera to keep himself entertained, sitting in his wheelchair on his balcony on the west coast of Florida and snapping photos of afternoon thunderstorms and stunning evening sunsets.

“I just fell in love with it. It was a way for me to express my creativity,” Lipman recalls.

Once he was able, Lipman began going to local nature preserves to photograph wildlife, and within a year of his first serious foray into photography he realized he had stumbled on to his talent. His colorblindness became an asset, helping him develop a unique style that relied heavily on black-and-white, a palette that emphasized light, shadow and vivid contrast. But as you can see, his colorblindness doesn’t stop him from shooting in mesmerizing color.

A self-taught photographer, Lipman has earned international recognition for his work as a nature and landscape photographer. He honed his skills in Florida before turning his eye toward capturing the iconic beauty of America’s national parks, but his longtime fascination with Africa and his passion for capturing the natural world through photography were always destined to converge.

On a safari trip — not his first, but his first with a camera in hand — Lipman was charged by a rhino and found himself in close proximity with a male lion.

“It was an instant love affair,” he says. “The adrenaline plus the creativity — I was hooked.”

Lipman built his reputation on a series of fine-art photographs that spotlight Africa’s people, animals, and otherworldly landscapes. The continent serves as the setting for many of his award-winning photographs, including one that earned a spot on the wall at The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History as part of an exhibit dedicated to the Nature’s Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International Awards. His entry, African Bush Elephant, Skeleton Coast, Namib Desert, Namibia stood out in a field of 26,000 photos, winning the African Wildlife category. He aims to capture the vastness and beauty of Africa — a place, he says, where a person “can witness raw, unfiltered nature, the way it’s meant to be viewed, and feel like part of the ecosystem.”

“I live in the United States,” he says, “but my heart’s in Africa.”

A recent trip to the continent provided a new thrill. Lipman was able to travel to Ethiopia and photograph “the vanishing tribes” — a group of self-governed tribes that are isolated from the outside world and are rarely captured by photographers.

“Some of these places are decently dangerous,” Lipman says. “The people in these tribes — their lives are just totally different than ours.”

Bold, dramatic and compelling, Lipman’s photographs capture a world in motion. We hope you enjoy his work in this month’s issue of South. See more of his work at

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