Nat Geo Photographer Cristina Mittermeier Aims to Break the Photo Book Mold

Composite image for the "HOPE" crowdfunding campaign by Mitty & Hemeria. The left side features a woman in traditional attire adorned with beads and jewelry. The right side shows a grayscale photo of a bear and its cub in a natural setting.

For her new book, Hope, National Geographic photographer Cristina Mittermeier decided on a non-traditional route so she can have more creative control to present her work in the very best light.

Mittermeier is a titan of wildlife photography boasting over 1.6 million Instagram followers and a recent National Geographic documentary took a closer look at the work she does alongside husband Paul Nicklen.

“I wanted to break the glass ceiling for how books are made,” Mittermeier tells PetaPixel via Zoom. “This thing that we have to do as photographers to go and beg publishers to publish our work is very painful.”

With this in mind and partly because of a sub-optimal experience with a publisher for her previous book Amaze, Mittermeier has decided to crowdfund and release a book via Hemeria giving the Mexican-born photographer full artistic control.

“Hemeria approached me and they said, ‘You know what? You have a pretty big following. You’re pretty active on social media. Why don’t we use your followers to fund this book?'”

And thanks to a dedicated audience, Mittermeier was able to smash her fundraising goal to the point where she will have a global distribution and publish twice as many copies as initially expected.

The $200,000 plus that Mittermeier, or Mitty as she is known, has raised will go to paying a designer, color correctors, copy-writers, editors, marketing, social media campaigns, and customer service. And that’s after the paper and printing costs.

“The way it usually works is a publishing company will give you a small amount of money to take some of that editorial work on,” she explains.

“It’s called the ‘advance’ and as you make sales, you get paid some money back. But I have published with National Geographic, I have published with other publications, and you tend to make $1 per book after everything is sold after publication.

“With Hemeria, I’m going to make 50% of all profits because we already took the risk away. We have secured enough pre-orders [almost 4,000] to guarantee that the book doesn’t have any financial risk.”

An individual dressed in warm, fur-lined clothing stands on an icy surface, looking towards a misty horizon during sunset. The word "HOPE" and the text "Crowdfunding Campaign by Mitty & Hemeria" are displayed in the upper left corner. The person carries a rifle on their back.

Open book displaying a magazine article on the left page with text and a large portrait of a person with long hair, face paint, colorful tribal headdress, and traditional neck adornments on the right page. The background is solid black.

Mittermeier has also struck deals with corporations and brands in which they have put in large orders and in return, they will receive special editions of Hope particular to their company.

What is Hope About?

Mittermeier tells PetaPixel that the title of the book is a deliberate juxtaposition to some of the despair around the climate and ecosystems.

“When you are in the line of work of doing conservation, you understand that what’s happening is pretty serious and it’s very difficult to convey that urgency,” she explains.

“Some days are very, very frustrating and it can get really, really dark. And Paul, my husband, and I, have this tendency of spinning each other downward to where it becomes just depressing.”

Two hardcover books titled "HOPE" are stacked, with the top book slightly offset. The cover features a photograph of a person adorned with vibrant orange flowers on their head and shoulders against a green background. The word "HOPE" is prominently displayed in large, golden letters.

However, Mittermeier says she is a “very optimistic person” and so for Hope she drew inspiration from other photographers and scientists and made a conscious choice to remain hopeful.

The 220-page book takes in her career, going all the way back to Mittermeier’s childhood and taking in every major inflection point that has shaped her career.

The project can be viewed on Hemeria.

For more of Mittermeier’s work, head to her Instagram and website.

Image credits: Photographs by Cristina Mittermeier.