Joel Sartore’s book The Photo Ark: One Man’s Quest to Document the World’s Animals is impossible to resist. It includes 400 out of Sartore's 6000 animal portraits, mostly those that are endangered, now archived by National Geographic. I couldn’t help myself as I lingered over every portrait and read every word.
Interspersed with the photos are stories of people Sartore calls “Heroes” who have dedicated their lives to helping protect animals even as one of them Tilo Nadler said “It was not my work, not my profession but what else could I do.” Another hero, Houston Zoo’s Chris Holmes called one of his beloved blue-billed curassow birds “a big jerk” 20 years ago but now says “This work has affected me personally as I realize how we are all connected.” These individuals and groups often focus on one species but advocate for all animals.
There are also Behind the Scenes pages that describe some of Sartore’s photography adventures. One describes the “hot and steamy” Singapore Zoo where he photographed “some 150 species over 12 days - animals ranging from aquatic invertebrates to Asian Elephants.” There’s also the story of photographing Mary Ann the American Bison at the Oklahoma City Zoo. They said “it couldn’t be done” but in the end “She was just a sweetheart."
Sartore has the photography process down to a science from the black or white background, controlled lighting and use of Photoshop to clean up the dirt to keep the process going quickly. It’s also an art with the goal of producing a “clear, focused portrait of the animal…to eliminate all distractions…to get viewers to care."
It’s Joel’s goal to photograph the remaining 6000 captive species before he dies. He’s been at it for more than a decade and hopes his efforts will help save these species for future generations.
We love animals and applaud Joel Sartore’s efforts. If you do too, you can buy a signed copy of his book at joelsartore.com, follow him on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. Also visit the Photo Ark on the National Geographic site.