During the pandemic, photographers who are used to working in exotic locations have been focusing on more local subject matter, opening up new avenues of creativity. Correspondent Rita Braver talks with Ami Vitale, whose work frequently appears in National Geographic magazine, and lifestyle photographer Gray Malin, about how the lockdown forced them both to reach a new understanding of their work – and their purpose.
In this photo, Pasaka, a younger Rothschild’s (Nubian) giraffe, is blindfolded and rescued from Longicharo Island, in western Kenya’s Lake Baringo, on a makeshift raft. Longicharo Island was once a peninsula, but rising water levels in Lake Baringo turned it into an island. Particularly heavy rainfall in 2019 caused further floods, stranding nine giraffes.
Rothschild’s giraffes are a subspecies of the northern giraffe, and are classified as endangered. The giraffe is the world’s tallest land mammal and the Rothschild’s giraffe is one of the loftiest subspecies, growing up to six meters in height.
The local community worked with conservationists from the Save Giraffes Now, Kenya Wildlife Service and Northern Rangelands Trust to build the barge and transport the marooned animals to a sanctuary in the Ruko conservancy on the shores of the lake. The rains had also led to an abundance of food on the island, so edible treats could not be used to entice the giraffes onto the barge.
Instead, the giraffes had to be tranquilized, which is a dangerous procedure given their anatomy, as they are at risk of choking on their own saliva, and changes in blood pressure can cause brain damage. A vet was on hand to immediately counteract the drug; the animals were then hooded and led onto the barge with guide ropes.
The last two northern white rhinos on the planet are never alone. They are cared for 24-hours per day, seven days a week by devoted keepers. Some of them you may know from these posts like Zacharia Mutai, Joseph Wachira and James Mwenda but there are many others who have committed their lives to protecting these creatures.
These men spend more time with these rhinos than they do their own families. The bonds are deep and the keepers have a profound understanding of just how precious these last northern white rhinos are. These men have become some of the northern white rhinos closest friends and greatest advocates.
For the month of February, I am holding a special fine art print offering of all my photographs of northern white rhinos. 100% of the profits will be donated directly to the keepers at Ol Pejeta Conservancy so that they can continue on their mission of protecting and fighting for some of the world’s most vulnerable creatures. Show your support today by visiting amivitale.com/shop/giving-back
I am pleased to share that my photo, “Dancer” is a part of the exclusive new Athena Collection of scarves from InFocus Canada. The series features some of North America’s most outstanding female photographers. Beautiful photography, elegant fashionable scarves, limited first edition, support of charity, sustainably and ethically produced.
The photo is of a traditional dancer from Udaipur, India inside a haveli. When I saw her twirling inside the magnificent architecture of the Rajasthan state, I was struck by her poetry. She too is one of the most powerful storytellers. Her vocabulary is based on gestures, movement, and expression. My hope is that the photo becomes a symbol of all the love, color, richness, and stories we all share.
Each scarf is produced from a custom milled fabric made from 100% recycled plastic and diverts 3 bottles from the waste stream. They are soft and flowy and feel beautiful around your neck. Only 200 scarves have been produced in this print as part of a First Edition. All scarves are sustainably produced and are developed and manufactured employing the highest ethical production standards.
10% of the sale price of each of my ‘Dancer’ scarves is donated to the BioRescue Project, an international project aiming to save the northern white rhino from extinction by developing methods of assisted reproduction and stem cell research under the leadership of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW).
Purchase yours and see all the other available scarves from photographic luminaries Viktoria Haack, Michelle Valberg, Melissa Groo, Kristi Odom, Deanne Fitzmaurice and Clare Hodgetts at InFocus Canada.
I am excited to share this collaboration with the extraordinary artist Mantra, my wonderful friends at both Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, Sarara Camp and National Geographic, who conspired to make this wild dream into a reality! For many years, I have been using photography and filmmaking to tell the powerful stories of this community in northern Kenya. I wanted to use other mediums and think about ways to inspire creativity and pride around protecting our planet and the creatures we coexist with.
Reteti is the home of the first indigenous owned and run elephant sanctuary in Africa. Rock Paintings are the oldest form of storytelling. The Samburu elders living here guided us to a place that holds powerful symbolism. THIS ROCK was once used by elephant poachers as a place to hide but now, it is a place for community members, elders and visitors to gather. Mantra is the extraordinary artist who brought my two dimensional photo of a wild elephant from Namunyak to life using water based paints. My concept was to create something from nature that was meaningful and ephemeral. The painting will not last forever, but the memory of what has been created in this community will always live on.
Mantra is a self taught painter who has been painting in the streets since 2008. I was honored that he agreed to bring his genius talent and come to Namunyak for this wild idea. The team at Sarara Camp rallied together with friends at Reteti to build scaffolding and Mantra painted this photo free style in one day. Miracles can happen and we can all do more to make sure our children experience the beauty and wonder of this world.
I am working on another project and looking for financial support. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in helping me with more initiatives to bring together stories, art and conservation. I believe these stories and art shape us and can change the way we see each other. I invite you to be a part of it.
I am honored to learn that the image of Joseph Wachira saying goodbye to Sudan, the last male northern white rhino on the planet, at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, has been nominated in the prestigious Natural History Museum’s People’s Choice Award. It is my hope that this nomination will bring attention to the incredible work of Jojo Wachira and all the people at Ol Pejeta and beyond who have selflessly committed their lives to helping protect and create awareness on the importance of wildlife and habit.
My hope is that the award can bring attention to the plight of the northern white rhinos, all endangered wildlife and funding to organizations like the Biorescue Project, Safari Park Dvůr Králové & Ol Pejeta Conservancy. This moment can be a powerful catalyst to awareness of the reality of this mass extinction we are all facing.
Over the past year, scientists from the Biorescue Project have created 5 northern white rhino embryos which are awaiting implantation in a southern white rhino surrogate to try to rescue this species from extinction.
I am also making this photograph available as part of a flash print sale. 100% of net proceeds will be given directly to the keepers who care for Fatu and Najin, the last two northern white rhinos on the planet. Purchase your copy here.
I’m also honored to have contributed to Human Nature: Planet Earth In Our Time in which 12 of today’s most influential nature and conservation photographers address important environmental concerns of our time.
The featured photographers are:
J Henry Fair
Richard John Seymour
Alongside their reflections, they present curated selections from their photographic careers.
Stories and extraordinary images from around the world come together in a powerful call to awareness and action.
The United Nations has declared that nature is in more trouble now than at any other time in human history.
Extinction looms over one million species of plants and animals.
Human Nature wrestles with challenging questions: What do we have? What do we stand to lose?
This book offers inspiration to environmentalists, activists, photography fans, and anyone concerned about the future of our world.
This illuminating book tackles our modern environmental future through the lens of preeminent photographers
Great gift for photographers, nature enthusiasts, those who enjoy backpacking and camping, and anyone who cares about Earth’s climate and future
Add it to the shelf with books like National Geographic The Photo Ark Vanishing: The World’s Most Vulnerable Animals by Joel Sartore, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert, and Dire Predictions: The Visual Guide to the Findings of the IPCC by Michael E. Mann and Lee R. Kump
I am incredibly honored to be partnered again for the Lavazza 2021 Calendar which has just launched! The theme this year is called ‘The New Humanity’ which asks us to work for a better world that is sustainable and just for all of us. Each photo had a meaning and a message. My message was that the environment has always been, and will always be, a social justice issue. We are all connected to one another and the outcome to every single story of humanity is always dependent on nature. The project aims to spread hope, bringing it where it is most needed.
My work was featured alongside these legendary photographers: Simone Bramante, Martha Cooper, Charlie Davoli, Carolyn Drake, Joey L., David LaChapelle, Christy Lee Rogers, Steve McCurry, Eugenio Recuenco, Denis Rouvre and Martin Schoeller.
Ami Vitale is an experienced teacher and believes in the importance of helping emerging photographers develop their talent and offers insightful, honest advice. Ami offers one-hour, one-on-one virtual portfolio reviews where she discusses how you find the best picture and edit it into a cohesive story.