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.
“It’s one thing to know the planet is in crisis. It’s another to see what that looks like.”
I am proud to be a member of WeTransfer’s Union of Concerned Photographers along with Lucy Pike, Mandy Barker, Frans Lanting, Luca Locatelli, & Joel Redman. We are a group of photographers dedicated to using the power of imagery to underline the urgency of environmental concerns. Learn more and get involved at we.tl/UCP
You can read my story on WeTransfer’s Union of Concerned Photographers website here.
Smithsonian Magazine published a feature, “Why Photographing Pandas is More Challenging Than You Might Think,” coinciding with the release of Ami Vitale’s latest book, Panda Love: The Secret Lives of Pandas.
Through its 159 pages, the book takes viewers on an exclusive look behind the scenes of China’s panda breeding centers and captive release program, chronicling the lovable bears’ journey—from blind, hairless newborns no bigger than a stick of butter to full-furred adults who tip the scales at more than 300 pounds.
Native to the forested mountains of central China, panda populations suffered in the late 20th century from poaching, deforestation and encroaching human development. However, with the backing of the Chinese government, the creatures are slowly multiplying in the rugged terrain. And now, as Vitale details in Panda Love, scientists are working to not only breed baby pandas, but release them back into the wild.
Read more about Ami’s process photographing pandas here.
Ami Vitale served as the judge for “The World We Live In,” an international photo contest sponsored by Pied a Terre. The winning photographers have their images exhibited at the Chambord Castle in France, in addition to a $7,000 cash prize for the first place winner, Fabiola Kano.
To learn more about the contest and see the other winners, visit here.
Ami Vitale served as one of the judges for the 2018 BigPicture Competition. BigPicture encourages photographers from around the world to contribute their work to this competition that both celebrates and illustrates the rich diversity of life on Earth and inspire action to protect and conserve it through the power of imagery.
Chaired by award-winning conservation photographer Suzi Eszterhas, this competition welcomes high-quality nature, wildlife and conservation images and is open to all photographers around the world.
To view the full winner’s gallery, click here. The winning images will be exhibited at the California Academy of Sciences.
I’m humbled and honored to named the first place winner in the 2018 World Press Photo awards for my National Geographic story “Warriors Who Once Feared Elephants Now Protect Them.” Thank you to all my friends at Reteti Elephant Sanctuary Community United for Elephants for trusting me to share your powerful story, to my editors Alexa Keefe and Sarah Leen for giving us the platform to share it and now to World Press Photo, for further casting the light on this important story of community and conservation.
I was awarded a World Press Photo, Second Place, Nature, stories, in 2017 for “Pandas Gone Wild.” In 2015, I received a Second Place, Singles, award in the World Press Photo Nature category for “Orphaned Rhino,” which is also from my body of work on Northern Kenya, like this year’s prize. This work is a long term examination of the change in the relationship between people and animals in the region.
In the photo above, keepers feed baby elephants at the Retiti Elephant Sanctuary in northern Kenya, the first sanctuary in Africa to hire indigenous women as keepers.
Please have a look all of the World Press Photo stories. Some will break your heart, others may make you laugh and hopefully inspire all of us to work harder to find solutions to our planet’s most pressing challenges.
You can also see my lecture at the World Press Photo Festival, where I shared the full arc of my photographic journey, including this story on the Retiti Elephant Sanctuary.
The BBC published a feature on Ami Vitale’s life and work, “Ami Vitale: A Life Devoted to Photography.” It offers a behind the scenes look at other elements that go into having a successful career in photojournalism, including the need for photographers to often fund their own work in order to do justice to a long term story that extends beyond editorial budgets. The story also focuses on the connection between Ami’s environmental work and her earlier stories about people.
Ami explains: “As a photographer, the more I’m asked to document people and their issues, I realize I’m documenting nature, and the more I get asked to document nature, I realize I’m photographing people’s lives. It’s one and the same. In a world of seven billion people, we must see ourselves as part of the landscape. Our fate is linked to the fate of animals.”
Read the full feature here.
Ami Vitale was a recent guest on REI’s podcast, “Wild Ideas Worth Living.” Her wild idea? To use photography to help people from around the world understand each other and connect. To raise awareness about cultures, communities, animals, and the environment.
Ami is a world-class photographer who has traveled the world on assignment for publications like National Geographic and the Associated Press. She got her start in journalism working as a war correspondent, and now focuses on stories, videos, and photos about culture, wildlife and the environment. As a storyteller, she’s traveled to over 90 countries, lived in mud huts and war zones, contracted malaria, and even donned a panda suit.
To listen to the full podcast, visit here.
Ami Vitale spoke to the New York Times about the importance of regular data backups and a digital asset management workflow in their story, “A Beginner’s Guide to Backing Up Photos.” She emphasizes the need for multiple backups, since hard drives can fail and cloud storage companies sometimes go under as well. Once you experience drive failure and loss of images, as Ami has in the past, you never want to make that mistake again!
For more information and advice on protecting your photos, read the full story here.
Ami Vitale and fellow National Geographic photographer Christina Mittermeier were featured together on the BBC’s The Conversation, where they spoke about the vital role of female photojournalists and the power of photography to raise awareness of global issues. Both photographers shed light on their storytelling process, the sacrifices involved in a career in photojournalism, and the need for more diverse perspectives in the field.
To listen to the full conversation, visit here.