World-respected, Montana-based photographer Ami Vitale has captured extraordinary scenes in more than 100 countries. Yet there’s one place that remains at the top of her list when it comes to creative inspiration: Northern Kenya.
Since her first visit to the region in 2009, the Nikon Ambassador and National Geographic photographer has returned regularly to immerse herself in the stories of heartbreak, but more importantly, in the stories of hope. It’s through this hope-filled lens that Ami then shares her compelling imagery of Northern Kenya. Now, with a strong connection to the community and the many conservation organizations there, Ami finds herself returning time and again. We chat to Ami about her lens on the world, her favorite spots to marvel at all living things and her top Travel Gems to explore in Northern Kenya.
Photographer Ami Vitale documents endangered species and the powerful bonds they share with their caretakers. This week on the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast, we interview Vitale and get a behind-the-scenes look at how she captured some of her most legendary pictures.
The final moments before the death of the last male northern white rhino, a 66-year-old elephant swimming in the ocean, and renowned primatologist Jane Goodall searching for chimpanzees in Tanzania in the early 1960s; these are all moments captured in a collection of powerful photographs that have been donated to raise funds for conservation projects.
Works by 100 photographers from around the world will be sold until the end of the year by Vital Impacts, a non-profit that provides financial support to community-orientated conservation organizations and amplifies the work of photographers who are raising awareness of their efforts. Contributing is a who’s who of nature photography, including Paul Nicklen, Ami Vitale, Jimmy Chin, Chris Burkard, Nick Brandt, Beth Moon, Stephen Wilkes and Goodall herself.
“Each image has a really profound story behind it,” said Vitale, an award-winning photographer and co-founder of Vital Impacts. “I worked really hard when I was curating this to make sure that these photographers are diverse, but the one thing they all share is this commitment to the planet. They’re using their art to help conservation.”
A decade ago, a group of endangered Rothschild’s giraffes was relocated to a remote lakeside peninsula in Kenya. But in recent years, due to rising water levels, the peninsula became an island, trapping the giraffes. In 2020, a team of conservationists set up a daring rescue—one that wildlife photographer Ami Vitale traveled to document. This is her tale.
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.
Award winning photographer Ami Vitale had travelled the world capturing today’s most compelling wildlife and environmental stories. Highly commended in this years’ Wildlife Photographer of the year’s People’s Choice Awards, Ami’s image The Last Goodbye portrays the bond between ranger and rhino. Join Ami in conversation with Alison Shean as we discover the incredible story behind this heart-breaking image.
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.
Though the number of pandas in the wild has risen in recent years thanks to various conservation efforts, especially in China, pandas remain a threatened species for a couple of reasons: their natural habitat keeps shrinking due to deforestation, and they’re hard to breed in captivity. Vitale believes that the recent incline in the panda population is a sign of hope for all of us, though, even as we’re bombarded daily with alarming headlines about climate change. “The story of the panda is a perfect metaphor for what we can do to turn things around,” she says. “We are at a turning point and the world is fragile and vulnerable. The choice is ours now. I want to tell people not to feel helpless and remind them that the power of individuals to make a difference is real.”
I have been named as one of fifty in InStyle Magazine’s Badass Women, a series celebrating women who show up, speak up and get things done. I believe all of us are “badasses” in our own way, but it is still an unbelievable honor to have been included, alongside so many inspiring women, including Jane Goodall, Christiane Amanpour, Stephanie Sinclair and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. See the full list here.
Further, for the InStyle August issue honoring spectacular women, I had the chance to interview one of my favorite Badass Women, Sasha Dorothy Lowuekuduk, Reteti Elephant Sanctuary’s first female head keeper and one of the first indigenous Samburu women keepers in all of Africa. I’m so proud of everyone at Reteti where all the women and men are working to not only protect elephants, but are also breaking stereotypes and pushing the boundaries. Read my full Q&A with Dorothy at InStyle.com.
Over the last two decades, Ami Vitale has travelled to over 95 countries, writing, taking photographs and now making films, driven by belief that telling stories helps connect people rather than emphasize differences. Besides working with National Geographic Magazine, she conducts photography workshops all over the world and is publishing a book, Panda Love: the Secret Lives of Pandas.
In this piece, “How I Got Here: Ami Vitale,” she speaks to Creative Review about how she discovered photography, making an impact and more, and tells the stories of some of her images.