Jon Lewis was born in Maryland, USA, and came to Australia in 1951. Self-taught, he spent the early years of his career working as a social photographer and film maker, living with artists like Martin Sharp, Brett Whiteley and George Gittoes in the Yellow House in Potts Point. He was a founding member of Greenpeace, and his early film Dolphin Dreamin is now in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia. In 1984 he began taking the first of his many photographs of people on Bondi Beach, which were exhibited in Paris and toured between 1989 and 1993. SBS made a documentary about his work in 1990. Two years later, his photographs of 200 famous and little-known Australian faces became Portrait of a Nation, shown at the Mitchell Library, Sydney. Lewis created his company Life Tools Photography to provide 'life-learning' through the exploration of nature in words and imagery. His sincere approach to photography was also demonstrated when he paid his own way to East Timor in an effort to document the everyday life of its people after independence. Robert McFarlane has written that Lewis is 'the burr under the saddle of Australian photography' because of his insistence on a pure, rather than a conceptual, approach to the medium.