fresh air interviews

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 


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


“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

‘The Chi’ Creator Lena Waithe Says Television 'Taught Me How To Dream’

In 2017, Lena Waithe made history as the first black woman to win an Emmy for outstanding comedy writing. The award specifically recognized Master of None’s “Thanksgiving” episode, which Waithe co-wrote with Aziz Ansari and based on her experience coming out to her mother.

Looking back on her Emmy win, Waithe says, “That a queer, black girl could tell her story and not just tell it, but be celebrated for it … that’s a moment that only comes once in a lifetime.”

Now Waithe is lending her voice to a new project. Showtime’s The Chi, which she created and executive produces, explores the ripple effects of a deadly shooting in a South Side Chicago community a lot like the one Waithe grew up in.

Waithe acknowledges that some of the broad themes of The Chi may feed into clichés about inner-city communities. But, she says, “I wasn’t trying to feed the stereotype at all. I wanted to face the stereotype head on, and then turn it on its head; or force you to look at where stereotypes come from, because there is a truth in all of them.”

Photo courtesy Todd MacMillan/Showtime

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.


Image by Jenny Jimenez/Courtesy of Hachette

New York Times columnist Lindy West knows what it’s like to encounter a barrage of Internet hate. West, who often writes about feminist issues and body positivity, was “doxxed” by Internet trolls — her home address and cell phone number were posted online.

But West hasn’t been silenced; she continues to speak out against harassment and misogyny. In her book Shrill, she writes about learning to like her body and to insist on a place for herself in public life.

Check out her conversation with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross here.

– Petra

yellow roses - fionn whitehead

requested(?): no but requests are open!!

word count: 744

roses weren’t Fionn’s favorite, until he met you.

Fionn wanted some fresh air, after doing press interviews all morning, and so he took a walk in a garden he had passed by in the taxi earlier on the way to work. Slipping on a pair of sunglasses, he walked through the arches with flowers adorned all around him until something caught his eye. A young man walked passed him, gingerly over to a small girl who Fionn assumed was the man’s girlfriend, and handed her a small bouquet of delicate pink roses that were being sold at the entrance. Fionn watched as the girl squealed in delight and embraced the boy, and he turned his gaze away, shaking his head ever so slightly. 

“Are you not a flower kind of boy?” he heard from his left. Fionn turned to come face to face with a young girl with her right eyebrow quirked up at him. She herself was fiddling with a small yellow rose in her delicate hands and he could see a hint of a smirk on her lips as she awaited his answer.

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Top Ten Fresh Air Interviews of 2017 On


Top image by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

On July 17, 2014, an unarmed black man named Eric Garner died on Staten Island, N.Y., after police officers threw him to the ground and put him in a choke hold. Garner’s last words, as recorded on a cellphone video, were: “I can’t breathe.” He repeated the phrase 11 times.

Although the coroner’s report listed the cause of Garner’s death as “homicide,” no police officer has been charged in the case. But the video of Garner’s last moments helped bring national attention to the injustice black Americans face at the hands of police.

“That tape had a huge impact on everything,” says journalist Matt Taibbi. “It’s opened the eyes — particularly of white Americans, who may not have believed that this kind of thing goes on.”

In his new book, I Can’t Breathe, Taibbi writes about Garner’s life, the police practices that contributed to his death and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

He talked to Fresh Air’s Terry Gross about the book – find their conversation here.

– Petra

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. […]

The emptiest feeling that you get is at the transplant time when they take the heart out and you look into their chest cavity where something should be and it isn’t there. And that is just a feeling you never get over: just seeing that empty chest cavity. And then when the new heart goes in, it needs a moment of reflection, because somebody else gave up that heart for this person to get it. So there’s two lives on line minimally. So it is a very, very moving experience. It’s one that never goes away.
—  Dr. Henry Jay Przybylo, anesthesiologist and author of Counting Backwards

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


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