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The Conservationist-Photographer: Joel Sartore

Posted by on September 28, 2016 | Photographer Interviews

Even after more than three decades in the photography business, renowned National Geographic photographer and Nikon Ambassador Joel Sartore is still an idealist at heart. “Photojournalism has the real power to change the world. A lot of people need our voice. They need our help to get their message out,” he says.

In 2006, Sartore put his assignments on the back burner to tackle one of the most pressing issues of our time: the impending extinction of the earth’s diverse and amazing wildlife.

The Photo Ark, which has since been sponsored by the National Geographic Society, is a herculean effort to photograph every single species held in captivity in order to document their existence and raise awareness about their possible extinction. Monk-like, Sartore has devoted himself to the task with a singular focus. He has traveled to around 300 zoos, aquariums, and wildlife rehabbers to photograph 6,000 species—and he’s only halfway done. He estimates that finishing the National Geographic Photo Ark will take the rest of his shooting career.

“We need people to realize that as nature goes, so do we,” Sartore says. “It’s foolish to think that we can doom half of the species on earth to extinction, but that we will be fine. It’s not going to work that way.”

Sartore believes so fully that even when he’s not shooting species for the National Geographic Photo Ark, he is evangelizing its cause, speaking at schools, zoos and conferences or appearing on television and in documentaries. The effort has lead to the projection of Photo Ark images onto the United Nations and Empire State Building in New York City and St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. It has even jumpstarted projects to help protect certain endangered species from extinction. (Read the full story)

-Harrison Jacobs


An endangered Florida panther in Everglades National Park, Florida. Photo © Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark


An African white-bellied tree pangolin baby hitches a ride on its mother at Pangolin Conservation, a nonprofit organization in St. Augustine, Florida. © Photo by Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark


Monarch butterflies in Mexico’s Sierra Chincua mountains. Photo © Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark


Fennec Foxes, St. Louis Zoo. The smallest foxes in the world have enormous ears to cool them down as they traverse sand dunes in the Sahara. Their cuteness makes them attractive to the wild pet trade. Photo © Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark


A grey-crowned crane with a pair of West African black-crowned cranes at the Columbus Zoo in Ohio. Photo © Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark