Back in February, I was totally captivated by the quality work of photographer Joel Sartore and his tireless effort to capture images of approximately 12,000 species in captivity around the world. Like the biblical Noah before him, over the course of the last decade, he has been boarding these rare creatures onto his photographic vessel, appropriately tiled the “Photo Ark.”
Rare: Creatures of the Photo Ark
As detailed in his three-part PBS documentary, “Rare: Creatures of the Photo Ark,” Sartore includes rare and endangered animals to stimulate public sympathy to protect animals in need.
The series which debuted July 18 both on TV and online features subjects, ranging from majestic elephants to comical insects. Aesthetically pleasing to the eye, each portrait is shot against an elegantly spare black or white background, poignantly capturing the intimate interplay between the creature and camera lens.
“The animals are the poetry. They’re beautiful works of art,” Sartore said in an interview. “They do all the talking. My job is to get out of the way.”
“But if his images of beauty and vulnerability fail to sway people,” he said, “maybe self-interest will.”
“We really want to get people in the tent of conservation, and make them realize you can’t lose half of all species and not have it come back and affect humanity in a very detrimental way,” added Sartore.
Fill up that Ark
Based on his metaphysical task of building a visual ark that captures the world’s biodiversity, this National Geographic fellow has visited nearly 40 countries. Currently his digital images tally 50-percent of his goal or 6,000 species that include, roughly, 900 mammals, 600 amphibians, 1,800 birds, 700 fish and 1,200 reptiles.
Sartore in known to travel into zoos, wildlife habitats, aquariums and other facilities caring for animals — to get up close and personal with these animals.
He and Chun Wei Yi, the PBS series’ art director and producer, focused on some very rare species like New Zealand’s kakapo, a flightless bird. The Yangtze giant softshell turtle in China unfortunately has dwindled down to only three survivors, Sartore pointed out, with one unfortunately acquired by a circus owner impressed with her size.
Sartore, however insists on remaining hopeful about the future, even as he sees species vanish. If you are as hopeful and are in a position to give financially, you have an opportunity to donate to the nonprofit National Geographical Society that supports on-the-ground initiatives like Photo Ark to protect all threatened animals.