About Don Orkoskey
I am photographer, artist, and designer Don Orkoskey. Thank you for your interest in learning more about me and my work.
Since my formative years I have been interested in the systems that surround us and impact our world. I've made it my life's work to better understand them, to expose and oppose systems that negatively impact people, and to build and support healthier systems.
I'm a professional photographer. Since taking senior photos in high school in the 90's I've always made some level of income as a photographer. I studied photography at both the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and Point Park University then worked for a number of local photographers in different capacities. In 2007 I opened my own photography business, WDO Photography providing event photography and portraits in and around Pittsburgh. Since then, with a few brief interruptions, the majority of my income has come from professional photography. Over the years I've covered corporate and nonprofit events. I have photographed sitting presidents, politicians weddings, and created portraits for many wonderful people but my passion has always been our natural world.
What really drives me is getting to know and understand our world and the people and other creatures that inhabit it. I love learning about people's lives and how they see and interact with the world, about plants and animals, and about the intersections where we all meet. There is something really special about those meeting points and that is a big part of what motivates me.
I'm a nature photographer. As such, I love to explore the edges of natural systems. These edges are where people, animals, and plants meet and interact. Our natural world fascinates me as does our role in it. From man-made systems such as cultivated urban parks to wild untamed places I live to explore and document our world.
Too, I'm passionate about protecting nature and natural systems. Doing conservation photography gives me purpose. In fact, I'm always looking for new projects to document and help publicize. If you're working in conservation and have a project that would benefit from reaching a wider audience please contact me.
FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHER
The same fascination that drive me as a nature photographer drives me as a fine art photographer. I consider much of my nature photography works of art. In fact I feel there is little distinctions between the two. After all, both come from the same place. In addition, they both seek answers to the same questions.
My nature photography focuses on two broad categories. First is conservation photography. Second is nature photography education.
My fine art photography is more personal. However they both are centered in my love of nature. While my fine art projects contain deep meaning, so too does my nature photography.
Traffic is a great example of an often unreflexive human built system. In fact, as roads expand traffic follows and fills the new lanes. However we're beginning to realize this. As a result we're seeing road diets.
Too, road construction can lead to a lot of traffic. In recent years more areas are encouraging the zipper merge. The need for the zipper merge is clear. However, for decades drivers have lined up for miles and complained. In fact in many instances drivers would block the lane that was closed ahead.
Why did/do drivers do this? First, it's a sense of fairness. They believe they're waiting patiently. Too, they feel this makes them a good person. However, the truth is that the zipper merge, when done right, relieves much of the traffic caused by road construction.
The zipper merge is a great example of reflexive systemic change. Informing drivers that they're not better people by merging miles before the lane is closed removes the feeling of moral superiority. Too, helping them understand how zipper merging reduces traffic incentivizes them to do it.
Ultimately this change can lead to further traffic reduction. This is because, as drivers become aware of the personal speed increase they're more likely to incorporate it into their driving habits.
PATTERNS & SYSTEMS
I find natural and manmade patterns and systems deeply interesting. The unique experiences of individuals is fascinating. I'm drawn to explore how each of us experience and understand the world so differently.
I look for patterns and systems in my work. Additionally both my nature photography and fine art are influenced by my neurodiversity. Plus, my diverse interest in the wide array of lived experiences by the people I meet.
The Gift of Diversity
Diversity is a gift. The fact that our own experiences give us such varied responses to similar stimuli is fascinating. The way I and other neurodiverse people see the world is different. Of course it's true that it's often a struggle. However, it's also a source of strength. This is especially true when it comes to pattern recognition. Additionally I'm gifted with the ability to see how complex systems are built.
Much of modern life is systematized. These systems are often created by and maintained for those with enormous wealth and power. However systems can emerge organically or out of a need to bring order to parts of our own lives. Too, dedicated people can build systems that support their community.
However, people are also prone to create very rigid systems. Typically this is done without reflection. At times these systems can become familially or culturally entrenched. Rigid structures do help save energy and effort. However the lack of adaptability often means they soon exceed their usefulness. When that happens if we refuse to change them these systems become problematic. One solution is self-reflection. In fact it's possible even on systemic scales.
I come from a working class family. I've traced my lineage back on both sides and found laborers, merchants, and eventually serfs - people who were owned by someone else. My own family's history and the stories of the people I care deeply for primarily include those who've always lacked access to the reins of power.
My steel working and coal mining ancestors fought for everything they had with the only power they could gather - the power of community.
It's no wonder much of my work over the years has focused on community development, community building, and on working people seeking little more than fair access to the fruits of their own labor. Working people, those who toil most of their lives as opposed to those who allow their wealthy to work for them, are my people.
Wealth disconnects people from community. Material wealth often contributes to a sense of superiority. Those who have more than most justify their actions and their place in life through seeing themselves as smarter or harder working despite all evidence to the contrary. They wall themselves off from others in large estates, educate their children in private schools or in wealthy school districts, and become untethered from the realities of the working class and the sense of community that develops often out of necessity.
SYSTEMS OF COMMUNITY
Systems of community, or viewing community through the lens of systems thinking allows us to develop and support working systems of community. These systems must be strengthened in communities that have been shutout and taken from. The power of community is central to the story of human beings. Without community nobody survives past birth. By coming together we can support each other and create abundance. When we abandon community to establish hierarchies and to prop up systems of individualism we break the bonds of community we risk the future of humanity and strip ourselves of vital connections to those around us.
I really hope you've enjoyed reading about me and learning more about my views. If you have any questions please contact me.
The following are some of my personal beliefs and some of my general philosophy and feelings about life, the universe, and everything. I figure if you're here to learn about me, Don Orkoskey, then I should share some of my deeper ideas and thoughts to allow you to develop a clearer opinion of the type of person I am.
FIRMLY HELD BELIEFS
I firmly believe that every person is equally valuable and that all of our lives have purpose no matter what we're doing with them by choice or otherwise. The autonomy of each person and their right to make decisions that affect their own person so long as their choices don't negatively impact others is vital to my world view.
I value autonomy as well as personal responsibility. We should not be telling anyone what to do with their own bodies when it comes to reproductive rights, their gender expression, or who they consensually partner with. Likewise we have an obligation to each other to ensure the best possible public health. Therefore I strongly believe in mandating vaccines.
These beliefs extend beyond social issues into economic issues. I strongly believe that capital can lift the world up but not when it's concentrated in the hands of so few. I believe in redistributing capital and that some social needs are far too great to be commodified. These include education, medicine, housing, defense, and infrastructure. These needs are communal and should be treated as such.
INTIMATE DIRECT DEMOCRACY
I am a proponent of intimate direct democracy and oppose hierarchy. As I believe all people are equal I believe everyone should have equal say in decisions that impact their lives. Cooperation on an intimate level encourages empathy and caring. Removing decisions to appointed representatives encourages distance and repression of empathy. It replaces human connection with a sense that decisions made at such levels have less impact than they truly do. It also breeds a false sense of superiority and greater purpose allowing those acting as representatives to ignore the needs of those they're said to represent. Intimate direct democracy by it's very nature doesn't allow for this false sense of superiority. It also prevents people from feeling that they have no control over their lives. Intimate direct democracy seeks to liberate everyone who practices it.