national geographic photographers

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 

Visiting Creatures in Need with Charlie Hamilton James

To see more of Charlie’s photography from around the world, follow @chamiltonjames on Instagram.

After spending several months during the course of a year in Africa shooting a story on wildlife poisoning, National Geographic photographer Charlie Hamilton James (@chamiltonjames) enjoyed his final day on assignment photographing (and cuddling) orphaned elephants. “On one level, it’s lovely, and on another level, it’s very sad. There’s a bit of a weird sort of emotional shift going on at the same time,” explains Charlie, who traveled to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (@dswt) in Kenya to see Roi, a young elephant who lost his mother to a poison dart. “Every single one of those elephants has seen some horrific trauma in its life.” Charlie offers advice to those who want to get involved on #WorldWildlifeDay but may not be traveling to Africa anytime soon: “The thing we can do is think locally,” he says. “Consider the animals on your own doorstep, and fight to protect them.”