Nomadic supermodel Amber Arbucci, a native Floridian, base jumps out of hot air balloons, swims with sharks, and crocodiles (yep crocodiles!), photographs large wildlife in their natural habitat, including underwater (see above), rides motorcycles, and drinks Schnapps in ice vessels from fallen Alaskan icebergs. In her spare time.
Her extraordinary nature photography has appeared in international magazines and galleries all over the world. She’s modeled for Victoria’s Secret, Sports Illustrated, done runway for Valentino, been shot by Bruce Weber, Helmut Newton, and a long list of photography’s immortals.
In 2014, her self-portraits, naked with untold numbers of jellyfish off of the Pacific island of Palau, from the same series as our lead picture, appeared sky high on billboards in New York’s Union Square, and at gallery exhibitions all over the world.
Now mainly focusing on her art and personal wildlife photography over modeling, Amber has directed her first documentary and been investing in tech startup companies. We finally caught up with her, after months of back and forth to connect for this interview. The lady does not sit still (actually, she must on occasion sit still, but you know).
What has been your favorite location and why?
To be photographed, I’d say my best photos were taken in Tulum, Mexico. White sandy beaches, turquoise water, palm trees. Although I could say that about almost every tropical location I have been in, Mexico has been incredibly special to be photographed.
The last exciting place I was at was in Botswana, Africa. In the Okavango Delta. I was scuba diving with the Nile crocodiles there for a week. We camped on a hippo stomping ground. I can say that was probably one of my most exciting adventures. BASE jumping out of a hot air balloon on the Arctic Circle was pretty incredible too!
To photograph wildlife in their environment is what I was meant to do. For me, the two places I have the most fond memories of are in Namibia, Africa, and under the ocean, shark diving — to be more specific probably Fiji. However, most recently I found Iceland to be pretty majestic for photography. Incredible raw beauty there, and with the Aurora’s coming through. I will never forget my time there.
What do you consider stylish?
I like to see confidence. When someone walks in comfortable and confident about themselves and their personal style…that is what prevails. At the end of the day who’s to say what is the epitome of fashion? However, there is absolutely nothing more stylish and sexy than someone walking in knowing they look great. My personal style changes a lot depending on my mood, where I’m at, and what I’m doing. But feeling good is most important.
Who’s your favorite fashion designer?
I have tried to find a replacement for my all-star, Alexander McQueen, but honestly, I have yet to find anyone that comes close. I have liked Tom Ford’s designs, and have had a section of my closet devoted to him. However, every piece I have ever had has fallen apart. Seams opening to shoe bottoms flapping at the end of the night. It’s not exactly giving the confident look I’ve been speaking about. I believe the quality of McQueen’s pieces will stand the test of time.
What’s your secret indulgence?
Salt! Might be a weird one for you. I just love salt. I will eat it plain out of the box. Since I’ve been a child I would sneak it. No one can take it away from me. It got to be such an addiction for me I had a collection of salts from around the world, but not just to stare at or own. I would eat them. I even traveled with travel size ones in my purse on planes. I’m quite picky about it also. I won’t eat the table salt. I want the big flaked salt.
Being in nature with animals, alone with animals, or under the stars, this is when I finally feel I belong in the world… Although modeling has always stuck me in the city, I’m never at home and I can’t wait to get out of the scene. My mother watched some videos of me and said, “I never see you smile like when you’re about to dive underwater with sharks or living in tents somewhere in Africa. That’s the only time I have ever seen the real Amber.”
I always want to feel. I think that is why I have chosen my passion for wildlife photography over modeling. Modeling definitely was a blessing to help me get to where I wanted to be financially to start traveling and shooting. However, now it has its own path and can support itself, which I’m extremely proud of.
Favorite items of clothing?
Animal onesies, lingerie, sneakers, my oldest and most favorite T-shirts, and I have a pretty hilarious sock collection.
What is the one thing no one would ever guess about you?
I trade stocks daily. I have been trading for years. In fact, I remember when I was on set modeling in New York City while getting hair and makeup done I’d have my laptop out trading.
Favorite city and why, and what’s your favorite place in your favorite city?
Any place I can get to feel at one with nature. I prefer nature to couture so if you are looking for Paris or New York, you won’t get those from me. I’m more like, “oh this small village in Borneo, where I was able to get a homemade bamboo raft made for me and my girlfriend to cross Borneo with!”
Your favorite hotel?
Petit Ermitage in West Hollywood. It’s truly artistic, sexy, and in every inch of it you see the heart and soul of the owner.
Dead or alive – who would you like to have dinner with, and where would it be?
Nikola Tesla. I have so many questions about what really happened. And where? Someplace where he would feel comfortable so that our entire conservation can be about my questions being answered, and not him wondering what a fast food restaurant is, or an iPad.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Always add value.
Feelings are only feelings. Even though they make you at times think you’re going to die, you won’t, and eventually, your heart will heal.
Watch this space. WONDERLUST will be catching up with more of Amber’s wild adventures in the near future.
Here’s a short video of her adventures in Palau:
See more of Amber’s work on IG @Amberarbucciphotography @Amberarbucci