Joel Sartore is an award-winning nature photographer and conservationist. A regular contributor for National Geographic magazine, he has brought the critters from the furthest reaches of the world to our attention for the past 25 years. He specialises in documenting endangered species and habitats to raise awareness about humanity’s impact on other creatures. The Photo Ark, a collaborative undertaking started by Sartore, is the centrepiece of his personal mission to record these vulnerable animals.
“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.”
It is difficult to estimate exactly how many species we share the Earth with as new discoveries are made almost everyday that reflect how astonishingly varied life on this planet is. However, to raise awareness about how human civilisation is responsible for the irreversible loss of species, Sartore and his colleagues embarked on a massive documentation of critters ranging from insects no larger than a toenail to vast creatures of the deep. The image bank currently holds documentation of over 6500 distinct species.
The Photo Ark is exactly what its name implies – a last safeguarding vessel for the creatures that are on the brink of extinction. These animals are threatened by climate change, habitat destruction, wildlife trade or a combination of these things.
While speaking to National Geographic magazine, Sartore explains that it is not his intention for the Photo Ark to be a depressing catalogue of remnants of these animals, but rather an insightful and detailed representation of nature.
“It isn’t just to have a giant obituary of what we’ve squandered,” he says. “The goal is to see these animals as they actually looked in life.”
Central to Sartore’s aim is to inspire a feeling of care in the public so as to move ordinary people into conservationist action. Take a look at the progress of the Photo Ark project here.