Member Profile: James Gaines

Introducing James Gaines – writer, traveler, and all-around fascinating person to fall into a conversation with.


What are you passionate about?

I like stories about how people interact with the world. Did you know there are Russian mammoth pirates? I’m passionate about writing about Russian mammoth pirates.

Sorry, what?

So a while back I worked on an article with this photographer, Amos Chapple. He works out of Europe and does some amazing stuff. As I was wrapping up that first article, he mentioned that he had just finished an expedition out to northern Russia and had pictures. Turns out China’s ivory ban has created a huge market for mammoth ivory. That in and of itself isn’t too bad, but the way these tusk hunters are working is incredibly destructive and illegal. Chapple persuaded them to let him photograph their work and it’s pretty amazing. I’m fascinated by stories like that, and I get the opportunity to tell them. [Our note: you should check out the article. It’s incredible.]

So what are you working on right now?

Actually I just got back from a much-needed vacation. It was good. Relaxing. It’s a bit weird taking vacation to somewhere I used to live (London). I didn’t end up doing much tourist stuff, mostly just hung out with friends and visited old haunts. I did go to some of the big museums as well. They’re all free admission, which is nice. You can just wander in for five or ten minutes to hit up the Van Gogh’s, for example, without feeling pressure to see other stuff as well.


What is one thing about you that most people don’t know?

I grew up in a cabin in the woods.

I bet there were great and not-so-great parts about that.

It wasn’t always great. It was hard to see other people, which made for a very lonely childhood. On the other hand, I got to spend a lot of time out in the woods. I spent a lot of time making little clubhouses or wandering around old deer trails. And the spot that I grew up in butted up against a wild game preserve, so I got to peek across a fence and see ostrich and zebra. That was pretty cool.

Where do you get your quick wit and dry sense of humor?

Probably from being a little messed up in the head.


Being a little messed up in the head is what makes us all more interesting. Or so we think! Thanks, James, for taking the time to share a bit more about yourself with us. Head to James’ Upworthy page to find more of his articles, or head here to follow him on Twitter. Thanks as always to Marti Rhea for capturing James in the space. Stay tuned for more!