Southern leopard frog ( Rana sphenocephala ) at the Denver zoo.
More than a decade ago, National Geographic photographer, Fellow, and 2018 Rolex National Geographic Explorer of the year Joel Sartore set out to achieve a very ambitious, righteous goal: to create a photo archive of every single species in the world’s zoos and sanctuaries in order to motivate people to protect them.
Beginning in his hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska, Sartore has so far visited 40 countries and made over 9,000 images of birds, fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates, with plans to create another 3,000 in the ensuing years. Once completed, the “Photo Ark” will serve as a reminder that animals and their environments work in unison to keep the Earth healthy. And when one species becomes extinct—as so many are in danger of becoming—it affects all of us.
In the mean time, the traveling exhibition, National Geographic’s most popular to-date, is on view at the Southampton Arts Center in Southampton, New York until September 8th. Whether gigantic or miniscule, every animal in the 100-image exhibition is photographed with empathy and respect, and the results are incredibly moving. By obtaining eye contact with each animal, Sartore elicits feelings of compassion among viewers, compelling them to help protect all the species that populate the world.
The National Geographic “Photo Ark” teaches people of all ages and nationalities about Earth’s biodiversity in a powerful and intimate way, as viewers come face-to-face with the animals that populates our planet and begin forming a connection to them, in all their varieties.
Throughout July and August, the Southampton Arts Center, together with the International Center of Photography, will host talks with internationally renowned wildlife, conservation and climate photographers, gallery tours with wildlife experts, wildlife workshops, film screenings, and more. It’s a great example of how photography still has the power to change the world.