National Geographic’s Explorer of the Year 2018, Joel Sartore, is on a mission to make us care about wildlife before it’s too late, one photo at a time.
Like India’s Jadav Payeng, who has single-handedly turned a barren area into a forest larger than New York’s Central Park by planting one tree a day for the past 39 years, Joel Sartore is a man with an environmental vision. He aims to photograph every species in captivity in the world as a call to action to stop them dying out and being lost to us forever. The 25-year project, run in conjunction with National Geographic, is called Photo Ark.
Some of the animals Sartore’s photographed have been the last of their kind, with wild populations disappearing as a result of human activity and environmental change. “It is folly to think that we can destroy one species and ecosystem after another and not affect humanity,” says Sartore. “When we save species, we’re actually saving ourselves.”
He uses black and white backgrounds, as reflected in the ad, because it makes all animals appear to be the same size, regardless of how large or small they are in the wild. “If you look closely enough, a tortoise is as magnificent as a tiger.”
He started the project in his hometown in Nebraska, US, and now travels the world speaking about the Ark and steadily gathering more images for it. He has captured 8,000 species on camera to-date.
“I want people around the world to look these animals in the eye, and then fall in love with creatures as dazzling as a pheasant or as odd as an octopus,” says Sartore.
And it’s not just about looking – he wants action from all of us. “I believe all of us have a great capacity to care. And when we do, we can accomplish amazing things.”
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