fresh air interview

Photographer Builds A ‘Photo Ark’ For 6,500 Animal Species And Counting

National Geographic contributing photographer Joel Sartore is 11 years into a 25-year endeavor to document every captive animal species in the world using studio lighting and black-and-white backgrounds. So far, he’s photographed 6,500 different species, which leaves approximately 6,000 to go.

Sartore tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross that presenting the animals in the studio, rather than in nature, gives them equal importance in the eye of the viewer. “A mouse is every bit as glorious as an elephant, and a tiger beetle is every bit as big and important as a tiger,” he says. “It’s a great equalizer.”

Sartore chronicles his project in the new photography book, The Photo Ark. The ultimate goal of his project is to help ensure that the future existence of his subjects, many of which are either endangered or on the verge of extinction.

“I’ve been a National Geographic photographer for 27 years, and I photographed the first 15 years or so out in the wild doing different conservation stories, on wolves, on grizzly bears, on koalas all in the wild — and can I say that moved the needle enough to stop the extinction crisis? No, no it did not,” Sartore says. “So I just figured maybe very simple portraits lit exquisitely so you can see the beauty and the color, looking animals directly in the eye with no distractions would be the way to do it.”

Photo: Arctic fox by Joel Sartore / National Geographic 

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Images courtesy of Simon & Schuster

Several years ago, when Garrett Graff was working at Washingtonian magazine, a coworker brought him a lost ID badge that he’d found on the floor of a parking garage.

“It was a government ID for someone from the intelligence community, and he gave it to me since I write about that subject, and he’s like, "I figure you can get this back to this guy,’ ” Graff recalls.

There were driving directions on the back of the ID, so Graff looked it up on Google Maps, and it led him to West Virginia. “The road dead ends into the side of a mountain,” he says, “And you can see very clearly these big concrete bunker doors — this little guard shack, chain-link fence, and then this set of concrete bunker doors beyond.”

Graff had stumbled onto one of the government bunkers designed to protect U.S. leaders in the event of a nuclear, chemical or biological weapon attack — most of which were built at the outset of the atomic age and throughout the Cold War.

He spoke with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross about his new book, Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself – While the Rest of Us Die. Find their conversation here.

– Petra

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“Eventually I found out that I was on a watch list. … This is 2003 [or 2004]. … After the Patriot Act, I would always get my financial packages in the mail and they would just be opened. It was like, “What is going on here?”… On that watch list they would be like, “Yeah your name matches the name of a terrorist or someone that they’re watching.” I was like, “What terrorist is running around with a Hebrew first name and an Arabic last name? Who’s that guy?” NPR Fresh Air Mahershala Ali interview-2/16/17

Terry Gross interviews Adam Driver
NPR Fresh Air
Terry Gross interviews Adam Driver

Adam Driver talks about how his unconventional looks impacted his acting in this episode of Fresh Air from April 2015.

GROSS: So I’m wondering, like, after she says that to you, how did you feel about your looks and how your looks were going to define the roles that you got?

DRIVER: I don’t know. I definitely had time - a time when I thought about it, right when I was graduating, of, I don’t really look - I look very strange. But then - you know, I don’t know. And I guess I kind of got over it.

GROSS: You use the word strange. When you were a teenager, did you think of yourself as looking strange? And if so, what impact did that have on you?

DRIVER: Oh, yeah. No, I did look strange as a teenager - like, you know, like, very prominent facial features. I have a big nose and big ears and kind of tiny eyes - very rat-like.

GROSS: (Laughter).

DRIVER: But I feel like it just made me - I don’t know. I just developed - I had to develop thick skin. And God, I mean, like, Marine Corps - if you have any kind of - if you’re insecure about anything or you have, like, you know, a mole out of place, people will find it and kind of - especially in boot camp or - you know, and drill it, you know, until you’re numb to it (laughter), I guess, in a way.

[…]

DRIVER: And then in the fourth year [of Juilliard], they try to open you up more to, you know, thinking of it as a business. And you have to do these kind of things, like head shots. And then you start to, like, really look at yourself in the mirror and think, like, will I even work, you know, as an actor? And I definitely had that time, around then, when you’re, like - you really look at yourself in the mirror and don’t know - you don’t really see a lot of people the way you look.

Actress Gabourey Sidibe On Anxiety, Phone Sex And Life After ‘Precious’

Sidibe’s break-out role was in Precious, Lee Daniels’ 2009 film about a girl who is sexually abused by her father and physically abused by her mother. She speaks with Terry Gross about landing the title role despite the fact she didn’t have acting experience, overcoming anxiety and depression as a kid, and what it was like to work for a phone sex hotline:

“It was good practice for this interview right now! … You think that phone sex is about getting the caller off, but it’s about keeping the caller on. It’s about leading with your personality and making sure that they’re still listening and they’re still interested in you, because you cannot make money when they hang up. … They pay by the minute, and I get paid by the minute. …

[The company wouldn’t] hire you if you had no ability to make your voice white, because that’s who the men on the phone wanted to talk to. … The company was [run] by 95 percent plus-size black women. It’s so interesting that … we were all plus size and these men would not normally be into us, and if they were it’s a fetish or whatever. …

So it’s very strange to go from undesirable, into the office, you clock in, and [they say,] “I love you so much. I’ll call you every day” … but they think I’m white. … You think you’re talking to Megan Fox, but you’re talking to Precious. Look how dope and fierce and amazing and smart and genius we are to fool you into thinking that we’re the opposite.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda On Disney, Mixtapes And Why He Won't Try To Top 'Hamilton'
NPR: Fresh Air

Lin-Manuel Miranda On Disney, Mixtapes And Why He Won’t Try To Top ‘Hamilton’ (NPR):

[…] Looking ahead, Miranda says he doesn’t feel pressure to duplicate or exceed the success of Hamilton. “If you think in terms of topping, you’re in the wrong business,” he says. “I remember getting that question after In the Heights. 'It’s your first musical and you won the Tony, how are you going to top it?’ I’m like, 'I went from broke substitute teacher to Broadway composer. I will never make a leap that big in my life again.’ ”

Interview Highlights

On what it was like to play Alexander Hamilton every night

It was an enormous challenge to do that show every night, and yet who to blame but myself? I wrote the part! And it was also the most thrilling roller coaster every night. You know, I got to fall in love, I got to win a war, I got to write words that inspired a nation.

Getting to go through that experience, it’s something I’ll never get old of, which is why I really tried to downplay my departure as much as possible, because I don’t think I’m remotely done with it.

On Donald Trump’s tweet calling for the theater to be a safe place after the Hamilton cast read a statement directed to Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who attended a performance soon after the election

Here’s where I agree with the president-elect: The theater should always be a safe space. … I think one of the reasons Hamilton has been embraced by people of every stripe on the political spectrum is that theater is one of the rarest places where we still come together. You may take a totally different conclusion from Hamilton than I do, based on your ideology and your politics and your life experience, but we all sat in a room together and we watched the same thing, and that doesn’t happen anymore.

As you can see from this election, we have our own sets of facts based on who we listen to. Which news organization gets our business determines the facts that get in our head. So I think one of the things that makes theater special is, first of all, it’s one of the last places you put your phone away, and second of all it’s one of the last places where we all have a common experience together.

So to that end, I agree with [Trump’s comment]. I don’t agree with his characterization of what we did. I think anyone who sees that video sees [actor Brandon Victor Dixon] silencing the boos … from the audience itself, who … nine days after the election are still working through that thing. I can’t speak to that, but I know that Brandon quieted the boos and made a plea to lead all of us. I don’t believe there’s anything remotely resembling harassment in what we’ve done.

[…]

On the music that influenced him as a teenager

My sister is as responsible as anyone for giving me good taste in music. I remember stealing her copy of Black Sheep’s A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing and learning “Engine, engine number nine, on the New York transit line.” I think that’s probably the first rap song I really worked hard to memorize in sixth grade, but then also Naughty by Nature and Queen Latifah.

The music you love when you’re a teenager is always going to be the most important to you, and I find that it’s all over the score of Hamilton. … These are all New York, East Coast, '90s rappers, and that’s when I was a teenager. […]

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Actress Carrie Fisher, beloved for her iconic role as Princess Leia, died on Tuesday at the age of 60.

She leaves behind her daughter, Billie Lourd, her brother, Todd Fisher, her mother, Debbie Reynolds — and her French bulldog, Gary.

Gary Fisher is a celebrity in his own right — he traveled widely with Fisher and was a star on Instagram and Twitter.

And when Carrie Fisher visited NPR’s studios in New York City, to talk to Fresh Air host Terry Gross, Gary came along, too.

Gross, however, was in Philadelphia. She didn’t know there was a dog in our studios. She didn’t even know that was allowed.

In the conversation that followed, it’s impossible to miss the buoyant personalities of both Fishers — Carrie and Gary.

LISTEN: Carrie Fisher, Terry Gross — And Gary The Dog

Photos: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP/Getty Images; Robin Marchant/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Happy 30th, Fresh Air!

Today (May 11) is Fresh Air’s 30th anniversary of being a daily, national program. That’s amazing. That also means Terry has been doing this longer than I’ve been alive.

Originally posted by logotv

Like a lot of people my age, my first memories of NPR were in the backseat of my parents’ car. It wasn’t long before I became a fan myself. The road trip from my hometown in Massachusetts to Philadelphia, where I went to college, was about 5 Fresh Air interviews long. I distinctly remember picking out interviews with Sacha Baron Cohen, Lisa Kudrow, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Jack Black and loading them onto my pink iPod mini. 

After I graduated and was miserable working in restaurants and retail, Terry’s interviews kept me sane. She kept me company during a time in my life when I felt lost and directionless. I remember Caitlin Moran, Lena Dunham, and Matt Weiner, to name a few.

I started at Fresh Air in May of 2013. I co-write the Fresh Air webpages on NPR.org with the lovely Bridget Bentz, run the social media, and handle the podcast. 

In the spirit of our anniversary, I thought I’d mention a few of my favorite interviews since I’ve been here, behind-the-scenes. 

  • John Waters: I have listened to this interview so many times, I practically have it memorized. I love how hard he makes Terry snort-laugh with gems like, “In Baltimore, if you’re hitchhiking, you’re a hooker that doesn’t have the Internet.” 

Originally posted by lastdaysofmagic

  • Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber: Some of my favorite interviews are ones where I’ve never heard of the guest before and then they totally blow me away. Pastor Nadia started a church for outsiders (junkies, drag queens, comedians) and has a really original and inclusive philosophy about faith. 
  • Joaquin Phoenix: I have a special place in my heart for this interview, because the day it aired was the day I was introduced in the credits for the first time. This show was completely bonkers. He was unpredictable and bizarre, but we were all having so much fun listening in while the interview was taping. 

Originally posted by haidaspicciare

  • Lynsey Addario: While working as a bad-ass photojournalist in a war zone, Addario was kidnapped with two of her journalist colleagues. She talks about that harrowing experience in this interview. It’s riveting. Plus, as a web producer, putting together a slideshow of her work was a real joy. 
  • Michael K. Williams: Williams, known for playing Omar on The Wire, was a dream guest (open, funny, thoughtful) I love when he called Terry “T,” and talks about how the Rhythm Nation music video inspired him to pursue a career in the arts. His kindness radiates through the speakers.

Originally posted by artofthewire

I’m sure I’m forgetting tons of other favorites, but those are the ones that came to mind. 

We’ve got plenty of exciting things coming down the pike. Thanks for listening, reading, following the show! We can’t wait to see what you pick as your favorite interviews with the hashtag #freshair30. 

Onward, 

Molly Seavy-Nesper, associate producer at Fresh Air 

Sixty-three years after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, many schools across the country either remain segregated or have re-segregated.

Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross that when it comes to school segregation, separate is never truly equal.

“There’s never been a moment in the history of this country where black people who have been isolated from white people have gotten the same resources,” Hannah-Jones says. “They often don’t have the same level of instruction. They often don’t have strong principals. They often don’t have the same technology.”

Still, when it was time for Hannah-Jones’ daughter, Najya, to attend kindergarten, the journalist chose the public school near their home in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, even though its students were almost all poor and black or Latino. Hannah-Jones later wrote about that decision in The New York Times Magazine.

For Hannah-Jones, sending Najya to the neighborhood school was a moral issue. “It is important to understand that the inequality we see, school segregation, is both structural, it is systemic, but it’s also upheld by individual choices,” she says. “As long as individual parents continue to make choices that only benefit their own children … we’re not going to see a change.”

How The Systemic Segregation Of Schools Is Maintained By ‘Individual Choices’

Illustration: LA Johnson/NPR

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The extraordinary thing about Lovato’s story is that we’re not now watching the downward spiral of yet another child actor play out in the tabloids.
Instead, we’re hearing about recovery and sober living from a young woman who had her last drink four years ago. Today, she is held up as a role model of what a healthy, fit person looks like. That she has managed to do it while recording four certified-gold albums.
-Demi Lovato for ELLE Canada

two moments from recent fresh air interviews I can’t stop thinking about

Roughly paraphrased:

1. Terry Gross asking David Sedaris if his life is as good as he imagined it would be now that he has accomplished exactly what is younger self wanted, and him saying, it absolutely is

2. Wendy Whelan, a retired ballerina talking about how her relationship to her body changed after her career ending injury, and saying, my body is my best friend