About Don Orkoskey

Nature Photographer + Artist

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 live in Pittsburgh with my incredible wife Zhanna and our cat Glasha. I play football (soccer), bike, and enjoy spending time with my family and friends. When I'm not working or with my family I'm in the woods studying and photographing nature. I lead a free monthly nature walk in Frick Park. You can see more about that in my list of classes.

Professional Photographer

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.

Nature Photographer

As a nature photographer I explore the edges 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 and creatures I love exploring and documenting our world. I'm passionate about protecting nature and natural systems. I love doing conservation photography and am 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 interest that drive me to document nature drive me as a fine art photographer. While much of my nature photography work can be displayed as fine art I feel there are some distinctions between the two. My nature photography focuses on two broad categories - conservation photography and nature photography education. My fine art photography is more personal. These are projects that I find deep meaning in and use to explore not only the subject at hand but more about myself as well.

Personal Beliefs

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.

Patterns & Systems

I find patterns and systems, both natural and those created by humans, deeply interesting. This is one reason I love meeting and talking with new people. Our unique views and understanding of the world are often different than each others. I think that's wonderful.

Diversity is a gift and the fact that our own experiences give us such varied responses to the same stimuli is fascinating to me. My art, including my photography, examines the role that patterns and systems play in our lives.

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 within ourselves to bring order to parts of our lives.

People sometimes create very rigid systems unknowingly. At times these systems can become familially or even culturally entrenched. Rigid structures can help us save energy and effort but the lack of adaptability often means they will exceed their usefulness. When that happens and we refuse to let them go or to change them these systems become very problematic.


Traffic is one great example of patterns and systems that we build unconsciously as a social group on a macro and micro level. We can greatly reduce traffic through simple acts such as increasing following distance but we rarely do. Because going slower seems counter intuitive to getting somewhere sooner people don't do it. As a result traffic becomes worse.

Sticking with traffic, the zipper merge allows for the maximum usage of open lanes for as long as possible. Still many people feel a sense of obligation or that they need to police the lane that is ending so as to prevent someone from taking advantage of what is there for everyone to use until the merge point.

So much of this boils down to a sense of entitlement, ownership, and a need to police the action of others whom we don't know. It's silly, dumb, and counter to everyone's interest. It also wastes something precious to all of us - time. Likewise it's wasting fuel and creating pollution, raising resentment, and causing alienation from our fellow people which is a problem for everyone.

Change is possible but so few people will accept this change willingly. People are resistant because it seems counter-intuitive. They also resist because it challenges their sense of superiority. They feel they're doing what is right by lining up miles before the merge point and that others are somehow cheating by using the open lane until the point where it's closed.


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.

Don and Zhanna at Niagara Falls
Glasha the Cat