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.
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’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.
I was honored to introduce the moving documentary film Kifaru directed by David Hambridge about the last male northern white rhino, “Sudan” at the 7th Annual New York Wild Film Festival opening night. Joseph “JoJo” Wachira flew in from Ol Pejeta in Kenya for the festival where Nikon surprised him with a new Nikon Z 50 and two DX lenses, the NIKKOR Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR and NIKKOR Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR presented by Steve Heiner, so he can continue to tell this important story!
I am so grateful to Nikon for this empowering gift. I also wish to extend a huge thank you to Kenya for donating his ticket and to all of you who came out for this powerful evening. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Currently, I am running a print drive to benefit the rhino keepers who selflessly have committed their lives to these creatures. You can own a signed photo of the moving final moment with JoJo and Sudan while also helping them personally. Details are available at amivitale.com/product/sudan. 100% of the profits will go directly to all the keepers.
I am honored that my photograph of Joseph Wachira saying goodbye to Sudan was chosen as the National Geographic best photo of the decade by the people of Instagram. I will never forget what it felt like to witness what I believed to be the end of a species. Yet, in a beautiful twist of fate, this image – an image documenting extinction – is the beginning of something powerful, something hopeful.
The coming decades will not be easy, but I believe we are making a real difference. You are my hope for a future that includes rhinos and other endangered species.
This image is currently available for sale. I am donating 100% of the profits directly to the keepers, like Joseph, at Ol Pejeta so that they can continue on their mission of protecting and fighting for some of the world’s most vulnerable creatures.
There are no words to adequately describe the profound feelings of hope and melancholy inspired by Joseph Wachira’s final goodbye to Sudan, the world’s last male northern white rhino. This image has been chosen as the best photo of the decade by the people who voted yesterday on National Geographic’s Instagram account. I will never forget what it felt like to witness what I believed to be the end of a species. Yet, in a beautiful twist of fate, this image – an image documenting extinction – is the beginning of something powerful, something hopeful. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Our world faces so many challenges. Humans are ushering in a new era of mass extinction. While that thought keeps me up at night, the profound care that Joseph showed for Sudan inspires hope and drives me to work even harder. Those who feel the urgency of this moment in history, are coming together around this image. As I write this, embryos created by Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Avantea, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya Wildlife Service and Safari Park Dvur Kralove wait to be transferred into a surrogate mother. This would not have been possible without your support. Please keep supporting the Biorescue Project. This matters. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ The coming decades will not be easy, but I believe we are making a real difference. You are my hope for a future that includes rhinos and other endangered species. The key thing is to not fall into the trap of thinking that these issues are too big to deal with or that someone else is taking care of the problems. It is up to all of us. It’s up to you. And to me. Be the VOICE for this planet. Don’t sit this one out. Without rhinos and elephants and other wildlife we suffer more than loss of ecosystem health. We suffer a loss of imagination, a loss of wonder, a loss of beautiful possibilities. Saving nature is really about saving ourselves. Sudan taught me that.
I am excited to release a new, behind the scenes film on my work in Kenya with Reteti Elephant Sanctuary for World Elephant Day. I hope it gives a glimpse into the powerful story of a community coming together to protect and save these magnificent creatures. I am grateful to Katy at Sprout Films for her sensitivity and commitment and Nikon for their endless support. Hurry, there is just one day left to buy a print or enter and win a Nikon D5600 camera and 2 lenses, Think Tank Photo camera bag and a print of one of the adorable elephants at at Reteti at amivitale.com/elephants
National Geographic published “How Women Photographers Access Worlds Hidden from Men” in celebration of their female photographers on International Women’s Day. In the piece, the women reflect on how gender influences their work. In an industry dominated by men, female photographers face additional hurdles to move their careers forward, but they also have an advantage when it comes to accessing personal stories of women around the world.
The story featured Ami Vitale’s photograph of one of the first women keepers at Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, Mary Lengees, affectionately stroking the head of a baby elephant, highlighting Mary’s devotion to caring for the animals. Ami reflects on the photograph, writing, “Though she and the women who work for her encounter resistance, the team at Reteti is united in its mission to rescue abandoned elephant calves, nurse them back to health, and reintroduce them to the wild. It requires vigilance and round-the-clock care, but Lowuekuduk’s passion for saving these 200-plus-pound babies knows no bounds. In a world where we focus only on the challenges and things that divide us, it’s important also to talk about the solutions.”
See the other photographs shared by female National Geographic photographers and read about their experiences telling women’s stories here.
B&H published an in-depth feature on Ami Vitale, covering the story of her career trajectory from conflict photographer to documenting the natural world. Thanks to one well-timed assignment focusing on people’s relationship to nature in remote locations worldwide, Ami’s whole photographic career shifted.
“That chance for reflection, to look at the natural world, helped me put all the pieces together,” Vitale says of this project. “I realized that all the conflicts I had been covering were ultimately about our resources. That the biggest story, which I had been missing, was our natural world and what we’re doing to it. It was one of the most transformative moments in my career.”
After receiving a Master’s degree in filmmaking, the scope of Ami’s work expanded further, which the story explores along with sharing her advice for other photographers and information on the gear she prefers. It emphasizes her mission to share stories of hope and to encourage people everywhere to take action to preserve the world for future generations.