Using Imagery to Preserve Nature
Photographer Q & A
You studied fine arts before becoming a professional photographer. How has that influenced your work?
Unlike many nature photographers, my background is in fine art and education, not biology or commercial photography. Studying the paintings of artists like Monet, Manet, Seurat and Pollack inspired the way I see the natural world. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest with the stunning landscapes of water, mountains and trees first led me to become an artist, then a photographer like both of my parents.
Tell us about your television series, Art Wolfe's Travels to the Edge.
I picked the locations based on my 30-plus years of traveling. Most of the places I've photographed before, so I had an idea of what to expect. This was extremely important when we had only 10 days to shoot the raw material for a 30-minute episode. Yes, there was some serendipity involved, but mostly our success came from very careful planning beforehand. In the course of the 26-episode series, we visited North and South America, Africa, India, Madagascar and South Georgia Island, just to name a few. Over two seasons we took our viewers on a journey to see glaciers, deserts, rainforests, remote mountain peaks and native cultures.
It must be difficult to pick out just one memorable experience during this adventure, but if you can, please share a favorite place or moment.
Mali was one place we went for season two where I had never traveled to before. My crew and I traveled out into the Sahara Desert, which is larger than the continental U.S. We filmed the Tuaregs loading their camels with great slabs of salt to transport across the desert to Timbuktu. For centuries these caravans have been the iconic image of the desert, and working with them was a high point in my career.
You are a lifelong conservationist, but choose to photograph and share the beauty of the planet and not its destruction.
Many would call me idealistic, even romantic, as I choose to shoot what is beautiful in the world, to reveal what we treasure and are perilously close to losing. I want to take photographs that are so beautiful that people respond by thinking, 'I don't want us to lose this. I don't want my children to miss the opportunity to see these wonders of life.' I want to slow down the change of Westernization and make the respective countries appreciate the culture they've got. We all are diminished when we lose a wildlife species, or we lose a language or a cultural distinction. We don't want to homogenize the world... otherwise it would be a fairly boring place to live.
Art's Lowepro gear includes:
Over the course of his 36-year career, photographer Art Wolfe has worked on every continent. His stunning images record the world's fast-disappearing wildlife, landscapes and native cultures. Wolfe has released more than 60 books, including the award-winning Vanishing Act and Edge of the Earth/Corner of the Sky. Wolfe is a member of Canon's elite Explorers of Light and Microsoft's Icons of Imaging. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society and a Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers. Wolfe is the creator and host of the widely popular public television series Art Wolfe's Travels to the Edge. He leads workshops for enthusiast photographers in his home base in the Pacific Northwest and around the world.