An Interview with Wildlife Photographer Joel Sartore

March 23, 2010 | Mark Goldstein | Photography Techniques | 10 Comments | |
An Interview with Wildlife Photographer Joel Sartore Image

1. Briefly describe a Day in the Life of Joel Sartore!

If I'm home, I'm doing paperwork and editing and helping to take care of my kids.If I'm in the field, I'm waking up way too early, going out in the dark and getting into position for shooting at daybreak. I try to take some food and plenty of water since I'll not be coming back to my tent or back to civilization until well after dark most days.

One nice thing about shooting for the Rare book is that the hours were much better. Because most of the animals were captive, I could only work when the various zoos and aquariums were open, say 8-5pm. So when the zoo closed, I'd have to leave.

2. What is your favourite kind of photography, and what is it that interests you so much?

I've always been really interested in endangered species. It's a matter of life and death, quite literally, and so the race is on to save them. My job is to get the public to first become aware that these creatures exist, then get them to care. It's truly a matter of our own survival as well,you know? It's folly to think that we can continue to trash the entire living world and not think it will come back to bite us in a very big way.

Photography can do a huge service in two ways. It can expose environmental problems as nothing else, and it can help get people to care. The stakes could not be higher. It's ridiculous to think that we can destroy so many of the Earth’s plants, animals and ecosystems and not think it can happen to us. All of this will come back to bite us, and sooner than we think. It will not be pleasant.

An Interview with Wildlife Photographer Joel Sartore

I hate to be so negative but that’s what I’m hearing from each and every one of the NG natural history photographers that I know. It is all starting to fall apart now. The world’s oceans are over-fished terribly, the air continues to grow filthier each year, and there are no signs of any slowing on the human overpopulation front. We may be winning some battles here and there, but we’re losing the war. The saddest part is that we all saw this coming, for decades, yet did very little to stop it.

So what’s the root cause of all this? I believe it goes deep into human nature itself. We are so successful as a species because we are resourceful, driven, greedy and we are never satisfied. No amount of material goods or money is ever enough. I’m afraid this will be our undoing. But all of us can and should do things to help turn the tide. Though things may be bad, it's now more important than ever to try and save the Earth.

You don't have to be published in national magazines to make a difference, either. Local photographers can have a tremendous impact in getting their viewers to think about what’s going on environmentally. Ever see a series of photos shot from the same spot showing a meadow or a forested hillside being bulldozed and developed? You can’t look at a sequence like that and not stop to consider where you live as well as how you live. Or, what about a photo essay on industrial food production? There’s no end to the material, unfortunately.

Groups like the International League of Conservation Photographers are starting to get photographers thinking environmentally and are also raising public awareness, from the man on the street to heads of state. Cristina Mittermeier has done an amazing thing in founding this group. Now it’s up to all of us to really show the world what’s happening out there. There’s not a moment to lose.

It is not enough, nor is it responsible journalistically, to show just pretty animals in an idyllic landscape. We must now show the threats to these creatures as well. Do we need to continue to show the beauty of nature? Absolutely. But we can’t pretend anymore that everything is lovely. Our photos need to inform readers of what’s really going on out there. The good news is that there are many publishers who want to publish stories on environmental issues. Let’s hope that all of the ILCP members hear the call.

Entry Tags

photos, photo, photography, photographer, wildlife, interview, question, answer, animals, extinct, endangered, Joel Sartore

Tracker Pixel for Entry

Your Comments

10 Comments | Newest Oldest First | Post a Comment

#1 J. Hunter Sizemore

“My job is to get the public to first become aware that these creature sexist”


2:50 pm - Tuesday, March 23, 2010

#2 houston personal injury

First of all I want to say that I have just enjoyed reading this interview with wildlife photographer.I really like what he said a huge service of photography.I do appreciate those two ways of a huge service.I also like hos thoughts very much.

7:45 am - Wednesday, March 24, 2010

#3 riverside photographer

I really enjoyed…. the interview with wild life photographer.I think wild life photography is a adventure and great career itself.Your works and efforts really appreciated…..I like your way of thinking…Great way to enjoy the environment and environmental species actually!!!!!!!!!

10:52 am - Wednesday, March 24, 2010

#4 Gustavo Morejon

As a conservation biologist and wildlife photographer, living in a country in the edge of the war between conservation and poverty, I know very well the power of images.  I don´t know how, but suddenly I felt in love with rainforests at the point that I can literally give my life to save some forests.  Thanks to photography and its power, I am close to save almost 20.000 ha of fantastic rainforests in Ecuador this year.  If it happens, I´ll feel well paid.  Your words are inspiring and someone like me can easily feel identified with your work.  Thanks for it.

2:00 am - Thursday, March 25, 2010

#5 Bruce Farnsworth

Joel is a great guy to work with.  I’ve assisted him on his endangered species work in the west. 

Like he says, focus on local issues if you are interested in environmental photography.  Partner with conservation orgs in your area, as I did with California’s coastal sage ecosystem in the mid 90’s and just keep plugging away if you’d like to get your work noticed.

10:16 pm - Sunday, March 28, 2010

#6 Manoj Shah

Well said Joe.
The first step is to get the politicians on the right track!
It hurts to know the truth but let us be positive and start a change that will make this planet a better place to live in.

4:31 am - Saturday, April 10, 2010

#7 Laura

I really liked your article. With wild plants and animals in an interview photographer.I think of wildlife photography is an adventure and a great career itself.Your work and effort are truly appreciated ...

8:15 am - Wednesday, April 21, 2010

#8 Arnold M. Wilson

What wonderful creatures we’ve got here! They’re so difeerent and beautiful! Each in its own way! Amazing!

1:25 pm - Thursday, January 27, 2011

#9 Peter Horvath

Your photos are absolutely incredible! Thank you so much for sharing them with your readers.

I’m hoping you might join us in a recent wildlife project we’ve launched.

Our ultimate goal is to build the go-to platform for documenting all the world’s organisms and through doing this we hope to develop an effective way to measure Mother Nature’s pulse. By encouraging the masses to document their encounters with nature, we hope to build a powerful force for data collection and an important educational tool for wildlife awareness and preservation.

We hope you’ll support us on this mission by joining Project Noah today. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) &

9:10 pm - Tuesday, February 15, 2011

#10 Lara

:) Lovely! Drawing the jaguar picture for art GCSE! It is a jaguar right? If not what big cat is it? ThanX! :D I might even do an artist analysis for this amazing artist.

9:08 am - Saturday, April 27, 2013