– look into my eyes –
Over the past two summers, I have volunteered over 240 hours at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens. It has been one of the most impactful experiences of my life and although I taught, I found myself learning more than I had ever imagined. As my mind filled with thoughts about the wonders of wildlife and the struggles of sustainability, I began to become more and more fascinated with conservation.
Last summer I became fascinated with one man’s goal: to get the public to care and save species from extinction. This man’s name is Joel Sartore. A National Geographic photographer, Sartore has made it his mission to use his lens to evoke emotion and thought about our dwindling environment. He is entering the 9th year of his 25 year project to document every species in captivity, having photographed 7,521 to date.
With simple white and black backgrounds, Sartore displays these species in a way that makes them seemingly equal. They are put on the same platform because, whether as large as a whale or as small as an ant, every species plays a critical part in the sustainability of the environment.
This concept is often related to dominos, meaning that if you pull one domino out, the whole thing topples over. Harrison Ford, Vice Chair of Conservation International, however, created the tapestry metaphor.
“Our water, our food, the air we breathe, the fertility of our soil, and the stability of our climate: All of these depend on the complex interactions of myriad species. Think of nature as a tapestry, and each species as a thread. There is no way of knowing which thread binds the whole together. Each one that is pulled out brings the tapestry closer to unraveling.”
In its simplicity, it shows just how thin ice we are walking on. But to me, it displays the power of education. It shows that is we are able to shift our mindsets, to put planet over profit, that we can make a change.
Joel Sartore is a man of few words, yet his photos speak. In the eyes of his subjects, one falls victim to their forceful stare, their simple gaze, their wistful plea. Joel Sartore is informing and educating, which is everything I strive to do. By using his talents and utilizing his platform, he is dedicating over two decades to a cause he sees just. Joel Sartore is proving the power of education.
“What makes us human, I think, is an ability to ask questions, a consequence of our sophisticated spoken language.” – Jane Goodall
Photos By: Joel Sartore