Conservation Photography | Earth Day Network

Conservation Photography

Through the power of their art since the mid-19th Century, photographers have been able to change the course of the future when their images influenced lawmakers to correct problems in the social sphere or, in the natural world, to preserve wilderness areas. But in the early 21st Century, a new term was coined – Conservation Photography – as photographers began to focus on the enormous changes happening to ecosystems and the indigenous peoples, and animal and plant life inextricably linked and dependent on them. Photography-for-conservation is recognition that the current global pattern of ecosystem degradation is not sustainable.

Today, there is a powerful connection between the art of Conservation Photography and the social and biological sciences. Photographers are working increasingly in conjunction with scientists who share the same concerns and the hope of exposing the discoveries they make to the public through their images.

As the battle to preserve the environment grows with rapidly advancing exploitation of resources, those images are ever more important. They tell stories about the peoples, animals and plants that have no voice. The narratives not only reconnect us to our own heritage and communicate the science, but also lead to a collective consciousness, a common cause and a catalyst for change in public policy.

The work of the Conservation Photographer is to bear witness to what is happening and to win human hearts and minds to the cause of sustainability. What motivates people to rally around the cause they promote is inherent in every conservation photograph – the beauty and fragility of life on earth. In their images lie the inspiration for change and our hope for the future.


Below are a few of the influential members of the Conservation Photography field who are known for their artistry, and also for their advocacy. Some were cited in the December 2010 Outdoor Magazine article, “40 Most Influential Nature Photographers”. Many are Fellows of the prestigious International League of Conservation Photographers (ILPC) formed in 2005.

Christina Mittermeier‘s work focuses mainly on the relationship between indigenous people and biodiversity. She is on the Board of the WILD Foundation, the Council of Conservation International, is the Founder of the ILPC and the Founder and President of SeaLegacy.

Michael ‘Nick’ Nichols is Editor-at-Large for National Geographic. His groundbreaking photo-documentary, Megatransect aided the creation of a network of 13 national parks in Gabon. He uses his visual voice to bring attention to those without voice.

David Doubilet is one of the most well-known and important underwater photographers and inspired a generation of photographers. He has photographed and documented the changing ecology of the underwater world. In 2016 he published “David Doubilet: Water Light Time.”

Robert Glenn Ketchum’s photographs and his personal activism have helped to define color photography in documenting critical environmental issues. His advocacy led to the passage of the Tongass Timber Reform Bill establishing 5 major wilderness areas. Audubon Magazine listed him as one of the 100 people who “shaped the environmental movement of the 20th century.”

James Balog founded the Extreme Ice Survey, a ground-based, photographic study of the impact of climate change on the world’s glaciers. The project was featured in the documentary Chasing Ice and in a PBS special Extreme Ice. He founded the Earth Vision Institute, which aims to improve understanding of the environment.

Vincent Munier has been on several solo polar bear expeditions. His Book “Artique” showcases his photographs. He has won the Eric Hosking Award in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition and his images have been exhibited in scientific centers around the world.

Yann Arthus Bertrand, a Goodwill Ambassador for the U.N. Environment Program on Earth Day, pioneered aerial photography, filming the Earth from above as a record of the world’s environment. He is known for his book “Earth from Above” and his films Home and Human and 7 Billion Others about the impact of humans on the planet. He created the GoodPlanet Foundation. He has received the French Legion of Honor.

Xi Zhinong is one of the leading environmentalists in China and is the founder of Wild China Film. He successfully initiated a campaign in 1996 to save the endangered Yunnan Snub-Nosed Monkey by saving their forest. On Earth Day 2015 his movie Mystery Monkeys of Shangri-La premiered in New York.

Karl Amman has devoted himself to wild animals of Africa: the bush meat crisis, illegal poaching and wildlife trafficking. His photos convinced the European Parliament and over 20 African states to sign a proclamation against the slaughter of apes.

Staffan Widstrand is widely accepted as one of Europe’s most committed conservation photographers. He is a Founding Member of the Big Five Swedish National Carnivore Information Centre and founder of the projects Wild Wonders of Europe and Rewilding Europe.

Subhankar Banerjee’s images of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge have captured international attention. He is a leading voice on Arctic conservation and climate change. He has done work in the American Southwest and the Pacific Northwest addressing desert ecology, forest death, and climate change. He wrote “Arctic Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point”.

Carlton Ward Jr. founded the Florida Wildlife Corridor project and has participated in National Geographic expeditions to advocate for the corridors protection. He works for the recovery of the Florida panther through conservation.He wrote “The Edge of Africa”.

Annie Griffiths was one of the first women photographers to work for National Geographic. In addition to her book and magazine work, she is the Executive Director of Ripple Effect Images, a collective of photographers who document programs empowering women and girls in the developing world as they deal with the devastating effects of climate change.

Art Wolfe has been influential in the worlds of art, wildlife advocacy and journalism. He is a member of Canon’s renowned photographers, Explorers of Light, and Microsoft’s Icons of Imaging. In 2000 he formed Wildlands Press which has published much of his signature work. He has written many dozens of books. His show Travels to the Edge airs on Public Television.

Jack Dykinga is a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer and recognized for his large format landscape work. He won the NANPA Lifetime Achievement Award. For ILPC he has contributed many RAVE (collaborative) expeditions, notably the El Triunfo cloud forest in Chiapas, Mexico, drawing attention to the threatened habitat there.

Kevin Schafer documents threatened eco-regions and endangered species around the world, especially tropical rain forest and polar regions. He works with conservation NGOs on three continents. He covered the 25 Most Endangered Primates on Earth for his Empty Ark project.

Peter Essick is an advocate in the battle against global warming. His images were in the movie An Inconvenient Truth and among Time Magazine’s Great Images of the 20th Century.

Norbert Rosing has been working since the 1980’s on his project In the Realm of the Polar Bears, spanning the Canadian Arctic, its wildlife, people and environment. In 2016 book, “Up Here,” contain the photographs from 1988-2016, his years spent in the Arctic.

Thomas Peschak is a photojournalist and founding director the Manta Trust. He spearheaded campaigns to proclaim marine reserves and end abalone poaching and illegal shark fishing. He wrote “Sharks and People” chronicling the relationship between people and sharks.

Frans Lanting has been documenting wildlife from the Amazon to Antarctica for three decades in order to leverage conservation efforts from local initiatives to global campaigns. In 2006 he launched the LIFE Project. In 2001, he was inducted as a Knight in the Royal Order of the Golden Ark, the Netherland’s highest conservation honor.

Daniel Beltra used aerial photography to document his expeditions to The Arctic, the Southern Oceans and the Patagonian Ice Fields. For two decades he documented changes in the Amazon Rainforest and for his work in recognizing the role rainforests play in climate change, he received the Princes Rainforests Project Award.

Chris Johns became the first photographer ever to be appointed Editor in Chief of National Geographic magazine and held the position from 2005 until 2014. His books include:Valley of Life: Africa’s Great Rift”,“Hawaii’s Hidden Treasures”, and “Wild at Heart: Man and Beast in Southern Africa”.

Martin Hartley has crossed the frozen Arctic Ocean on foot and with dogs. Time Magazine acknowledged his contribution to science with the Heroes of the Environment Award in 2009 for his multiple surveys of the Arctic Ocean to document the state of the disintegrating sea ice.

Florian Schultz is the 2019 NANPA’s Outstanding Nature Photographer of the Year. In 2010, Schultz helped launch the visual environmental campaign Visions of the Arctic. His project, the Freedom to Roam, is to help expand the new conservation movement of establishing national wildlife corridors and create awareness, especially the B2B (Baja to the Bering Sea) corridor.

Beverly Joubert’s conservation involvement includes being a member of the Chobe Wildlife Trust and founding member of the Wild Places Foundation. Since the 1980s, Joubert and her husband Dereck have made 25 films including The Last Lions, launched the wildlife protection programs Rhinos Without Borders and the Big Cats Initiative and published more than a dozen works. Nearly killed by a water buffalo and seriously injured by a poacher’s bullet, Beverly continues her work.

Pete Oxford is a dedicated conservationist and a contributing photographer for the Wild Wonders of Europe project. He has published 13 books on Ecuador, Guyana, and the Galapagos and is on the board of directors for Eco Ecuador.

Boyd Norton has served on the Board of the Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund. He has played key roles in the establishment of many wilderness areas. He is the founder of Serengeti Watch, Baikal Watch, Hells Canyon Preservation, the Greater Sawtooth Preservation and Idaho Environmental Council. His most recent book is “Serengeti: The Eternal Beginning” and he is actively leading the battle to save the Serengeti ecosystem from a commercial highway and developments.

Christian Ziegler has worked extensively in tropical rainforests on four continents. He is an Associate for Communication with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. The American Association of Publishers named his 2002 book, “A Magic Web”, the Best Biology Book. His book “Deceptive Beauties” is about wild orchids.

Tom Mangelsen’s work is in the permanent collection at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C. He is a co-founder of the Cougar Fund, an Advisory Council member of the Jane Goodall Institute, and an Ambassador for the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance. He is the author of numerous books and recipient of numerous awards.

Igor Shpilenik travels across Russia documenting its wild places. He was instrumental in the creation of the nature reserve, Bryansky Les Zapovednik, preserving 20 percent of the Bryansk Forest in Russia and became its Director. He took part in the Wild Wonders of Europe project. For the past 20 years he has focused on Russia’s entire nature reserve system.

Andy Rouse has won numerous awards, including the Gerald Durrell Award for Endangered Species at the 2010 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. His book, Tigers, donates some of its profits to the 21st Century Tiger conservation partnership. Andy also worked with Páramo to create the Aspira Fund, which uses part of the proceeds from sales of clothing to fund conservation projects.

Mark Carwardine is a conservationist and widely-published wildlife photographer. He hosted Nature on BBC Radio 4 and co-presented two BBC television series, Last Chance to See and The Museum of Life. He worked for international conservation organizations and is a consultant advisor with numerous wildlife charities.

Jim Brandenburg received the World Achievement Award from the UN Environmental Program in recognition of his use of nature photography in raising public awareness of the environment. He is also co-founder of the Brandenburg Prairie Foundation to promote, expand and preserve prairie in Minnesota.

Michael Aw is an author, explorer and is the Founding Director of the charity OceaNEnvironment, which documents the status of coral reefs. He initiated the Turtle Nest Adoption Program, in Indonesia, and the Say No to Shark Fins campaign in Southeast Asia. In 2015 he was project director for the Elysium Epic imagery expedition to the Artic of Svalbard to interpret and inspire greater understanding of the region and the impacts of climate change.

Peter Cairns is a pioneer of partnership-based conservation photography in the UK. He is a Founding Partner of the Tooth & Claw project, a Founding Director of Wild Wonders of Europe and a Founding Director of The Wild Media Foundation and 2020VISION, the most ambitious nature photography initiative every staged in Britain.

Mark Hamblin was the Co-founder of the Tooth & Claw project, and the Wild Media Foundation, a collaboration of photographers working on conservation initiatives in the UK. He is a co-founder of the Highland Tiger conservation project and a member of the 2020VISION project.

Niall Benvie is a Founding Fellow of the ILCP, a Founding Director of Wild Wonders of Europe, a co-founder of the Rewildling Childhood project and a member of the 2020VISION project.

Patrico Robles Gil created two of Mexico’s most successful conservation organizations, Agrupacion Sierra Madre and Unidos para la Conservacion, and his leadership helped Cemex, the world’s second largest cement company, become a major player in the conservation arena and a global corporate leader in conservation.

Joe Cornish is one of the world’s finest landscape photographers, and his photographs, in particular his work for the National Trust, have helped inspire a generation and furthered the cause for conservation.

Amy Gulick covers issues including endangered species, illegal wildlife trade whaling, plastic pollution, and the aquarium trade impact on coral reefs. A major focus is Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, a rare eco-system and its old-growth forest, and the cycle of life that revolves around the salmon runs. She wrote “Salmon in the Trees: Life in Alaska’s Tongass Rain Forest.”

Brian Skerry is an underwater photographer whose images reveal the crises of the ocean. He is the author of many books including “Ocean Soul” and, in 2017, “Shark”.He has won the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 11 times. In 2010 one of his images was named by the National Geographic as among their 50 Greatest Photographs of All Time.

Sebastian Copeland is an explorer, photographer and makes films about his travel. His books include, “Antarctica, The Global Warning”, “Antarctica, A Call to Action”, and “Arctic, The Vanishing North”. His foundation SEDNA was formed with the mission of educating and empowering individuals and members of government on the urgency of global climate change.