Terra is a freelance documentary photographer based in the Ozarks region of Arkansas - bringing the unique perspective of someone who lives and raises a family in rural America.


      For the past eleven years, Terra Fondriest has found herself on the journey of navigating motherhood. In 2011, with the birth of her first child, she transitioned from her former adventurous career of traveling the country as a wildland firefighter ‘hotshot’, wrangling horses for an outfitter in Montana’s Bob Marshall, and mapping the trails and features of Buffalo National River for the US Park Service, into a mostly stay-at-home mom at her hilltop house nestled in the woods of the Arkansas Ozarks. It turns out, those prior jobs were no match for the adventure of becoming a mother.

      In between changing diapers, growing a garden, wrangling chickens, cutting wood, and exploring the hills and hollers with children in tow, Terra decided to focus more on learning about photography, not only to document her first child and growing family, but also to help understand it. This new creative outlet ignited her passion for visual storytelling which has grown over time into a long-term personal project called ‘Ozark Life’ where she not only documents her family, but the everyday lives of others within her small community as part of a collective patchwork of present day life in the Ozarks. ‘Ozark Life’ has been a way to share with others, the rhythm of life that is so deeply tied to the land and explore the nuances that make living in the Ozarks so unique, yet similar to the human story shared by all.

      Back in 2004, Terra received her BS degree in Natural Resources from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and in 2011 a postbaccalaureate degree in GIS mapping from Penn State while working for Buffalo River. Her photography education has evolved from mostly self-taught while being an active participant in the National Geographic Your Shot community, to the Missouri Photo Workshop experience in 2017, a 2018-2019 Women Photograph Mentorship, and continues presently with other mentor and workshop situations and always self-study. She became a member of the highly esteemed Women Photograph in 2018 and as of 2019, began doing freelance work with clients such as The New York Times, The Nature Conservancy, The Washington Post, Vogue, National Audubon Society, The Bitter Southerner, Bloomberg, Insider, Medium and more. 

Terra is available for assignments in the Ozarks region

Home is St. Joe, Arkansas, nestled in the hills of Buffalo River country

Contact: [email protected]

(portrait photo by Terra's 10 year old daughter)

Articles & Exhibitions featuring Terra's Ozark Life project
Bitter Southerner March 2020 -- Terra's fav!
Washington Post March 2020
It's Nice That November 2019
Arkansas Life Magazine February 2019
Collections - Awards - Grants - Exhibitions
National Geographic Photo of the Day August 8, 2019March 3, 2018, June 19, 2016October 27, 2015
National Geographic Your Shot.  55 Published images. 2013-2019.
June 2017.  The Boone County Library mezzanine gallery.  An Ozark Childhood: Photographs by Terra Fondriest.
2021.  Editing the Visual Story workshop with Sarah Leen and Bill Marr.  Participant.
2017.  Missouri Photo Workshop 69-Eldon.  Participant.
2012.  George Melendez Wright Climate Change Intern at Buffalo National River.
2011-2012.  Penn State World Campus.  Postbaccalaureate Certificate in Geographical Information Systems.
2001-2004.  University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.  BS in Fish and Wildlife Conservation, minor in Animal Science.
Women Photograph.  Since 2018