Joel Sartore is a prominent National Geographic photographer who has spent the last 15 years working on the project he founded called the Photo Ark. His ambitious goal is to document the 15,000 species that are currently in captivity all around the world before they go extinct. Joel is on his 10,000th species mark, with his latest photograph of a small cat native to Chile known as a güiña (in the picture above).
How it All Began
Joel’s story is a classic example of how hard times can birth the best ideas. About 15 years ago, his wife got sick, and he had to stop everything to be with his family and take care of the kids. During that year-long hiatus, he went to the Lincoln Children’s Zoo (Lincoln is his base town), and that’s where he met many smaller species that would never interest people unless they were on the edge of extinction. He photographed a naked male rat, some poisoned dart frogs, and a hand-raised turaco, and he was hooked. He went around places like Omaha and Kansas City which he could drive to.
Sartore called this project the biodiversity project. The name Photo Ark was born during a live interview when he forgot the name and had to come up with something quickly.
A Passionate Photographer’s Dream
Compared to the small species, worldwide attention is on the big guys – lions, giraffes, zebras, whales, and bears. The little ones, like ants and beetles, that actually makes the world run, never make it to the spotlight. That’s where Joel’s project comes in to shed light on these fascinating species we may lose in the coming decades.
Joes says that all the species they photograph are precious, irreplaceable, and have a basic right to exist. His goal is to raise awareness by helping people meet up close with these beautiful and rare creatures.