Born and raised in California, Torie Hilley is a wildlife conservationist, artist, and self-taught photographer. She was originally a wildlife researcher studying the behavior of predators throughout Southern Africa (Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, and Botswana), before she switched to visual arts. First studying the behavior of lions, she then got her master’s degree in Animal Behavior and specialized in the second most endangered carnivore in Africa, the African Wild / Painted Dog.
During her studies and research work, the unthinkable happened when National Geographic purchased one of her images ("Lions in Lines") in 2018 and published it in a book, called Spectacle. This was just the beginning of her epiphany.
It was during her master’s research when she realized the power of imagery when her friends and family didn’t know what an African wild dog was and thought that they were feral dogs. Her epiphany began.
As she continued her research, Torie began to realize that her passion for the African bush was due to capturing the behavior of predators and other wildlife through her lens. She felt that she could spread more awareness and send a message about endangered species more effectively through imagery, whether that was through her photography or oil paintings. She then made the decision to dedicate her work to wildlife conservation.
Since 2021, she learned from some of the best wildlife photographers so that she could improve her photography to evoke more emotion from her viewers. She has now traveled to Alaska to photograph the brown bears, Kenya to photograph the beautiful African wildlife in Amboseli and Masai Mara, Patagonia to photograph the pumas, and back to Zimbabwe to photograph the painted dogs in Mana Pools.
But it wasn’t until then that her work started getting seriously recognized, all thanks to her wonderful mentors, Tin Man Lee, and Federico Veronesi. Her photography has now been published in Remembering African Wild Dogs, The Nature Conservancy, BBC Wildlife, The Guardian, The Times, and counting. Her photography has also won several awards, including Top 100 in the Mammals Category in NANPA 2022, Top 250 in Share the View 2022, a Finalist in Comedy Photo Awards 2022, Honorable Mention in The Nature Conservancy Photo Awards 2022, Category Winner in Animals in their Environment in the Siena International Photo Awards (SIPA) 2023, a Finalist in Big Picture Photo Awards 2023, Finalist and Runner Up in Explorer’s Against Extinction’s Focus for Survival 2023, and Highly Commended in Nature Photographer of the Year Awards 2023.
As for her artwork, Torie has been focused on painting since she was 12 and began oil painting when she was 18. She has a Minor in Studio Art and is a realistic wildlife artist where she uses her own photography for her references. She likes to think that she does her own “photoshop” where her “non-photos” turn into her paintings. She has been awarded locally and internationally as well, including Best of Show in the Ventura County Professional Art Show in 2022. She has now participated twice as a judge for Wild Heart Gallery.
She has several paintings and fine art photography prints in private collections and public galleries around the world. She donates 10% of her sales to various smaller wildlife conservation organizations because she believes in supporting the “little guys” on the ground protecting wildlife. She is currently exploring the world of wildlife conservation photojournalism to bridge the gap of the visual arts and the sciences.
She hopes that you join her mission to help wildlife through the visual arts.