Conservation Photography: Another Way to (Literally) See the World

Photo by Suzie Katz |

When we’re taught about conservation, we usually learn to think about the purely physical sense of the term – that is – direct actions taken within the environment to benefit the environment.  Recently, though, I came across a relatively new trend in environmental awareness: conservation photography. 

Essentially, conservation photography integrates the important issues surrounding environmental protection with the skills of a talented photographer.  Whether it be images of polar bears snagging its next meal, mind-blowing relationships between sharks and humans, or the impacts of an oil spill on aquatic organisms, all conservation photography has a common goal: capturing proof of the reality of our planet – good or bad.

Although only recognized as its own category in 2005, conservation photography has already made quite the global impact.  Perhaps the reason why I fall in love with these images over and over again (and call it a cliché) is because a picture really is worth a thousand words.  No amount of reading can reveal the magnificence of a simple photograph.  Reading is subject to visual interpretation; a picture reveals the truth – the gruesomeness of seal clubbing, the increasing urbanization of land, the continued melting of glacial ice. 

I am a huge fan of the work done by Paul Nicklen; he tells such remarkable stories through his photography.  Starting out as a wildlife biologist, Paul has taken his camera to places where most people wouldn’t dare travel, and has made connections with species most people fear.  His main focus involves connecting the public with the effects of climate change (particularly in the Arctic and Antarctic), and succeeds beyond doubt through his photos.  

I highly recommend watching his presentation on TED Talks (found below).  This video definitely motivated me to see the environment and ecosystems in a different light, and I think everyone could learn a lot from what conservation photography has to offer.