Gallery  August 6, 2019  Chandra Noyes

Joel Sartore’s Photographic Ark

© Photo by Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark

A federally endangered Florida panther, Puma concolor coryi, at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo.

Award-winning photographer Joel Sartore is on a mission to document the world’s dwindling wildlife population. For his extensive Photo Ark project, Sartore travels the world taking stunning portraits of creatures great and small. An author, speaker and passionate conservationist, Sartore hopes to bring attention to the desperate need to protect animals and their habitats.

While most nature photographers document animals in their natural habitats, Sartore depicts animals out of their natural context, reminding us that many of their habitats are being destroyed or irrevocably harmed. Because these animals are in zoos and sanctuaries, they likely cannot return to the wild.

Grahm S. Jones, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

After a photo shoot at the Columbus Zoo in Ohio, a clouded leopard cub climbs on Sartore’s head. The leopards, which live in Asian tropical forests, are illegally hunted for their spotted pelts.

With his mobile portrait studio, Sartore visits zoos and wildlife sanctuaries around the globe, aiming to document every living species. Through dramatic lighting and sparse backgrounds, his images bring us an intimate moment with these creatures, inviting us into their interior worlds. Sartore’s animal portraits make them more relatable, showing their unique personalities through candid moments.

Having worked on this project for over 25 years, Sartore had witnessed and documented profound changes to natural habitats and their inhabitants around the world. His Photo Ark currently documents 9,585 species through over 30,000 photos.

A pygmy slow loris, Nycticebus pygmaeus, at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.
© Photo by Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark

A pygmy slow loris, Nycticebus pygmaeus, at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.

A critically endangered African white backed vulture, Gyps africanus, at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.
© Photo by Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark

A critically endangered African white backed vulture, Gyps africanus, at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

Three critically endangered, yearling Burmese star tortoises, Geochelone platynota, at the Turtle Conservancy.
© Photo by Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark

Three critically endangered, yearling Burmese star tortoises, Geochelone platynota, at the Turtle Conservancy.

Two Golden snub-nosed monkeys, Rhinopithecus roxellana, at Ocean Park Hong Kong.
© Photo by Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark

Two Golden snub-nosed monkeys, Rhinopithecus roxellana, at Ocean Park Hong Kong.

A regular contributor to National Geographic magazine and named the 2018 National Geographic Explorer of the Year, he is the subject of the television series RARE. He has several books, including Photo Ark: A World Worth Saving, and RARE: Portraits of America’s Endangered Species. Sales of books and photographic prints support The Ark project, which has another few thousand species to document of the approximately 12,000 living in zoos and wildlife sanctuaries.

This summer, the International Center of Photography and the Southhampton Arts Center have brought Sartore and his work to the Hamptons for a National Geographic Photo Ark exhibition, including a conversation between Sartore and International Center of Photography Executive Director Mark Lubell on Thursday, August 9.

About the Author

Chandra Noyes

Chandra Noyes is Managing Editor for Art & Object.

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