Tim Flach & Joel Sartore Capturing The Endangered Visually On The Brink

To record what might be fleeting in time is a special art. Photographers differ from a lot of other artists in being focused on the “now.” They’re capturing what is here today in any given moment of time. The poignancy of that endeavor speaks volumes when it gets up close and personal with animal extinction. Man has learned the fate of endangered species is a global issue affected by all types of predators, whether it be other species, climate change or man.

Two award-winning photographers working on this topic have taken similar paths in capturing subjects who may not be here tomorrow. Both Tim Flach and Joel Sartore have visually photographed species in two well-acclaimed books, namely ‘Endangered’ and “The Photo Ark,” respectively.

Saving the Species

As many of my readers know — over the years — I’ve written extensively about endangered species and why mankind needs to be concerned about the ‘Sixth Mass Extinction’ we are currently experiencing. What’s interesting about Sartore and Flach is the similar methodology they’ve chosen to document this important issue.

Sartore & The Photo Ark

The goal is 12,000 species. The ’Photo Ark’ navigator and animal photographer is Joel Sartore. The mission is to photograph every captive animal species in the world. So far, he’s traveled to all the countries he initially targeted a few years back. The Photo Ark serves as an important visual record of each animal’s existence, and a powerful testament to the importance of saving them.

Tim Flach & Endangered

Similarly, with a focus on mammals, reptiles, fish and birds, Tim Flach has traveled the world over to highlight the vivid faces and stories of some of the planet’s most vulnerable species in his photo portfolio, aptly titled, 'Endangered.'

There’s an overlap of animals both photographers have shot, whether they’ve been captured or found and removed from their originating habitats and ecosystems.

Environmentally Removed

Once found, both photographers chose to remove the endangered species from their environments, which is much different then photographing them in their indigenous environs. Instead, bot pit them against stark backdrops, completely divorcing them from their habitat.

Sartore felt that presenting the animals in the studio, rather than in nature, gives them equal importance in the eye of the beholder. It kind of puts them on a equal playing field. His portraits in the studio features each species on either a plain white or black background. No matter its size, each animal is treated with the same amount of affection and respect.

"A mouse is every bit as glorious as an elephant, and a tiger beetle is every bit as big and important as a tiger," he says. "It's a great equalizer.”

Flach’s decision to visually remove the endangered creatures from their environment was also deliberate.

“The romanticizing, free, wild images [of animals] weren't necessarily getting people to take action,” Flach told NPR.“I wanted to think about what kind of images people engage in and how you tell a story to get people to connect to [the animal].” The “mild anthropomorphizing” of animals is shown in research to make us feel a greater connection because the creatures have personalities we can relate to. “Images often done in a style and representation that was more like humans was more likely to make us care more.”

For both, the resulting ‘endangered’ animal photos provide a human-like existence to these creatures. Hopefully, as such, man will give more thought to saving them from extinction. Treating them like humans creates a greater bond — and hopefully the work of both of these photographers will put us steps closer to helping them to remain safe for generations to come.

Primary Source: Portraits of Endangered Species


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