Joel Sartori, Terry Gross, Grizzlies discussed on Fresh Air


With gusty winds along the coast will continue through the weekend in northern California the National Weather sense of service as temperatures will remain below normal at least through Monday sitting in for Terry gross imagine what it would look like if a rhino a leopard a grizzly bear an ostrich a wart hog an alligator a double headed turtle a giant clam awardee pig a striped tree frog and thousands of other animals came to a photo studio to sit for their portraits that's never going to happen. so Joel Sartori does the next best thing he creates a version of a portrait studio wherever the animals are. Sartori is a National Geographic contributing photographer and fellow. in addition to his assignments in the wild he's taken on the project of documenting the world's animal species that are currently under human care in other words a representative of each animal species in zoos wildlife rehab centers and aquariums. these are animals who are on the verge of extinction or are endangered or may soon be his goal is to document them before they disappear. he hopes the by taking beautiful photos of them more people will care about these animals and ensure that they have a future for the benefit of the animals humans and earth's ecosystem. his project is called the photo arc and when Terry gross spoke to him in twenty seventeen he'd already photographed sixty five hundred different species and published an accompanying photo book since then he's published two more photo work books the latest called vanishing the world's most vulnerable animals came out this month. Jill so Terry welcome to fresh air so why did you decide to do animals who are under human care as opposed to animals in the wild because a lot of animals in the wild that aren't going to be represented in your art projects sure there's millions of species in the wild and there's you know about twelve thousand maybe thirteen thousand animals in captivity the reason is because I've never been able to talk a tiger into walking out of the way and I sat and posing just can't do it you're not very good at this hour you know I'm not I'm not a. fact I haven't even tried so the reality is that the animals that are in captivity around the world they are they're they're used to people they've been around people their whole lives born raised and so it's it's it's just much easier to convince them to get to come into a room and most time we shift animals into a room that's been prepped with black and white either paint or cloth or paper and then we feed them during the shoot it takes a few minutes then there then they leave you know so most time they just think they're coming in to get lunch by the time I get there well I love that you photograph them in the studio typeset setting you basically create studios in the zoo or the wildlife center by setting up a white background and floor or that black background and floor right so what do you want to photograph them in that kind of setting as opposed to like in there in a setting that they live in in sure and sure in whatever you know either cage or wildlife sending. they have in their refuge yours who were the right well I mean I I did that for a long time I I I've been a National Geographic photographer for twenty six years some like that twenty seven and I photographed the first fifteen years or so out no while doing stories of different conservation stories story on walls on grizzly bears on quality all in the wild and can I say that move the needle enough to stop the extinction crisis now no it did not so I just figured maybe very simple portraits lit exquisitely seeing see the beauty in the color looking animals directly in the eye with no distractions would be the way to do it and also on these black and white backgrounds with no nothing to have is a size comparison amounts is every bit as glorious as an elephant and a tiger beetle is every bit as big and important as a tiger so it's it's a great equalizer and the majority the animals that are in the photo work are not are not guerillas rhinos in polar bears they're they're mice and their toads in their sparrows in their their animals that will never have their voices heard before they go away before they're before their lead off to extinction. so I feel it's a big responsibility to show them all equally and give them equal care and give them an equal voice no it's funny it's like the animals are making eye contact with you because you photograph them looking into the lens right there looking into my eyes when I look at the photo that's right because of the kind of studio setting that you create reminds me a little bit of like if the animals had like graduation photos. send them to the studio to get the photos that then can be framed and put on the wall. yeah that's right I mean it is it is a series of pictures pictures like that just exactly like that we we just want to show the animals looking their best and to get people drawn in into the tent of conservation to realize that all of these animals are important and valuable and in worth preserving I mean after all. really we will stand to lose about half of all species by the turn of the next century twenty one hundred and it's really folly to think that we can do half of everything else to extinction but that people will be just fine I mean we we have to have pollinating insects to to bring us fruits and vegetables few one thing selfishly so we have to have healthy intact rainforest to help not only regulate climate but but to make sure our rainfall stays stabilized in and predictable and consistent in places like Nebraska where I live where we grow crops to feed the world so really as these creatures go so do we I love seeing the photos of animals that I'm familiar with like you know a leopard rhino but there's a lot of animals in your book that I'm really not familiar with including the Bengal slow Larus. the little baby Laura say that you have yeah so the Larson's in hand like a customer right so many holding it just for scale I guess because right tiny nice it's a big round eyes in the select adorable fuzzy hair perfectly round face right like tiny little creature how old was the Larson what is a Bengal slow loris well he's just he's just a little primate and I believe that was photographed with that photographed in Vietnam perhaps our wildlife rehab center. they have you know that a lot of these rehab centers have animals that have been confiscated from the pet trade the mothers have been killed in their sold in the pet trade and and so you're looking at something just a few weeks old in it and it's a primate that needs a abundant attention and care which is which of the places I work at and so you seem a little baby there that needs all the help in the world to make it to adulthood then at we have centers you know the grown back up the condition and live in the wild how to find the right food and off they go again so big fan of wildlife rehab centers in general. so there's a lot of animals there must be really easy to get to pose like the little baby Larus that fits in the palm of the hand but then you've got a bison and people tell you you're not gonna be able to get a bison to pose for right or to to even go into little studio tent that you set up so what do I have to do to get the bison photo right well I should explain to folks like for small animals we work with animals that again the the the institution knows that the animal will tolerate going into a little crate or kennel they're trained and they they let him go out back out into into a little tent but for an animal like a bison there's no tent big enough that's a good way to get her to so so what they did is they paint this is that the Oklahoma City zoo and they painted an offer exhibit space black then we waited a day we painted it white and we let her in there were using mulberry leaves they could literally Parker on a dime using mulberry leaves they had a herd of bison they were named after the characters on Gilligan's island. she was Marianne and they they just put it right there on the diamond they didn't think that she would do it but we put the lights up in the ceiling so she couldn't get into armor or reform down the chords are all tied up against the ceiling up in the beams and then they just put they just put right there right there and she'd stand there all day long is really remarkable. the yeah now she knows just she's standing on on a painted backdrop in a painted floor and then they would give her mulberry leaves and when she finished the last leaf and look up at me and say Hey Marianna should look at me and and then the I get a picture and then they'd feeders more leaves to keep her there and she just you know she was just having lunch because she was used as a backdrop so it's very nice that way so there's a lot of advance work that goes into these pictures obviously months of work to go to one zero just in the prep. I'll tell you what when we take a short break here and then we'll talk some more about the animals that you photographed for your ark series and the me reintroduce you here my guess is Joel Sartori and he's a photographer contributing photographer for National Geographic news trying to document all of the animals under human care in zoos and aquariums and the photos are really beautiful we'll be right back this is fresh AIR. this is fresh air and if you're just joining us my guess is Joe also Tory he is a contributing photographer for National Geographic and the project he's been working on for over ten years is the photo arc project and is goes a photos of all of the animals under human care in zoos in animal rehab centers and aquariums and he's gotten over six thousand of those photos done already in other words over six thousand animals he's documented. we're talking about like. doing big animals and small animals so another big animal that you did was a grizzly bear and so yep yeah I mean Grizzlies can be very dangerous which I'm sure you've learned the hard way in the wild. guess you photograph them in both places but I have been doing the grizzly bear and in the zoo was the grizzly bear pretty accustomed to humans did you have to do anything to protect yourself you know we if it's a big animal like that were always working behind a protective barrier some sort you know usually wire metal but in this case you know again the this space is prepped it's paid for a big animals practice painted white and painted black and that was at the center county zoo in Wichita Kansas they get the space ready the bears used to come in there to have lunch will offer exhibit space and exit the pictures are taken while he's eating when every looks up in between tidbits I think was raw meat he looks up we get his picture looks like he's smiling any goes back to it and then the photo shoots over when the we usually when the animal gets full that's it for the photo shoot a lot of food motivation there so that so no no danger at all and I listen to what the staff of the zoo says in terms of how close together just never a problem so compare the experience of photographing a grizzly in these controlled circumstances for your army series to photographing a grizzly in the wild well tell yeah it's a it's a lot easier photograph them in captivity and you don't get charged. I did an entire story and Grizzlies for the geographic years ago and I remember getting charged on day three of the assignment because you know if your pictures aren't good enough you're not close enough the old saying goes and so. got too close to a mother with her cubs in Alaska and I just remembered her charging at me it looks like she was just looked like she was shot out of a cannon she moved so quickly and I couldn't run away if I'd wanted to my my feet I didn't even know I had legs to move I just stood there with my mouth open and she didn't touch me but it I thought what is gonna be a long assignment at eight weeks ago so. it's just a it's a lot better working with animals that that have been around people their whole lives you know lot lot better hold on hold on I don't think you finish the story she came at you like a cannon you couldn't move and then what and then what then she stopped I don't know she stop close enough to me that I could smell her breath when she snorted at me. and I stood there and I mean it was just seconds and then she kind of turned around and try to back to a cubs they were feeding on salmon at at in cat my national park in Alaska.

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