PetaPixel

The Photo Ark: Highlighting Endangered Animals Through Studio Portraits

It’s no secret that wild animals can be immensely difficult to photograph. Now imagine taking photographers of large wild animals in a studio-like setting. It’s just what photographer Joel Sartore has managed to capture in his work for The Photo Ark project. The project aims to document endangered species (with over 2650 photographed to date), in order to raise awareness of the fact these creatures may soon be gone.

animals

Sartore has worked with numerous zoos and rescue facilities to document this biodiversity, and prints are available, which helps Sartore continue his work:

“On a typical shoot, I go through half a roll of background paper and a few yards of black velvet.  The sale of one 8×10 print covers the paper, and an 11 x 17 will supply me with velvet.  It’s not a lot, but multiply that by 50 shoots or a hundred and it really adds up.  We reuse what we can, but once a hippopotamus or chimp has had its way with background material, there’s not much else to be done with it,” says Sartore.

But why not photograph these animals in the wild? Why in a studio setting?

According to Sartore, “some of the species in the project simply can’t be found in the wild any more. Another reason for this portrait style is that it gives equal weight to creatures big and small.”

A porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) at the Great Plains Zoo.

A porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) at the Great Plains Zoo.

A young, female Diana monkey (Cercopithecus diana) at the Omaha Zoo.

A young, female Diana monkey (Cercopithecus diana) at the Omaha Zoo.

An endangered Indain rhinoceros female with calf (Rhinoceros unicornis) at the Fort Worth Zoo.

An endangered Indain rhinoceros female with calf (Rhinoceros unicornis) at the Fort Worth Zoo.

A male okapi, at White Oak Conservation Center.

A male okapi, at White Oak Conservation Center.

A hawk-headed parrot (Deroptyus accipitrinus) at the Houston Zoo.

A hawk-headed parrot (Deroptyus accipitrinus) at the Houston Zoo.

You can see more of Sartore’s beautiful endangered animal portraits over on the Photo Ark website.


 
Get the hottest photo stories delivered to your inbox.
Get a daily digest of the latest headlines:
  • Will Mederski

    I would rather see the proceeds from the (albeit reasonably priced) prints go towards some effort to protect these creatures, instead of “fund additional shoots.”
    Nothing special in just paying your own bills.

    Also, looks like a one-click Magic Wand job… :o/

  • Victor

    To make a flip argument that its better to donate money he earns from selling his prints shows a lack of understanding of how photos can play a role in helping to preserve those animals. If you enjoy photography or are a photographer you should know that. And by using the profits of his prints to fund future shoots, to capture more images, tells me no one is paying him to take these pictures – so must he donate his time. And with 2,650 already photographed, that’s a lot of donated time from an award winning, legendary National Geographic photographer pursuing a personal passion to save these animals in the way he knows best – by photographing them to help educate others of their plight. I actually like his portrait approach against a white or black backdrop because it does provide equal weight to small and large animals. (And if you didn’t know who Joel Sartore is, then you should learn – especially if you enjoy photography or a photographer.)

    So, nothing special about your comment.

  • Will Mederski

    very good point. i hesitated to post my original comment, but appreciate the flipped perspective.

    i think it was more that i was surprised to find there wasn’t a double bottom line involved considering his notoriety and phrasing on the project’s website.

  • Victor

    Fair point. He does refer viewers to the zoo (e.g. How you can adopt this animal at the LA Zoo – “adopt” = support) on an animal by animal basis on the site. But perhaps there could done more in this area.

  • Jim Griggs

    Joel is a good friend of mine and you will find no one person anywhere more dedicated to what his doing and pursuing. He exhibits a true passion about saving species and yes, he does sell images but he is relentless in his drive to keep these creatures as part of the environment. Money is only a way to further his drive. I have many professional photographer friends involved in conservation efforts. All live VERY modestly. If you think they are making big bucks in photography, it just does’t happen.

    Joel came and talked to our group one year and showed us what he goes thru for this project by photographing a rat snake on stage using his normal equipment. Hard to imagine the set up that goes into photographing, say, the Okapi.