A self-taught photographer, he was educated at Muker National School and Birkbeck College.
Cherry Kearton's first job was at Cassell Publishers in London, and in 1892 he began collaborating with his brother on books and articles. In 1905 he made the first aerial photographic record of London from a balloon. During World War I, with the rank of captain, Kearton served as official photographer for the British Expeditionary Force in France. He later traveled widely in Africa, Australia and elsewhere, filming big game and natural wildlife as well as taking still photographs. During one five-month period he and his wife lived on an island inhabited only by penguins, where he photographed the birds and wrote a dissertation on their group habits.
Among the several films he shot in India, Burma, Borneo and Malaya were Dassan (about penguins) and Tembi (about crocodiles). He also invented a "gun" camera.
Quotes from others about the person
Kearton created book illustrations that were "a sharp contrast to the stilted, though accurate, bird-drawings of the 19th century. His work revealed to the public the charm of bird photography as a means of catching the attitudes and revealing the intimate habits of birds. They played a considerable part in the great populari-zation of nature study . . ." (London Times, Sept 30, 1940).
In 1900, he married Mary Burwood Coates, with whom he had a son, also named Cherry, and a daughter, Nina. They divorced in 1920, and he married Ada Forrest, a South African soprano, in 1922.