Joel Sartore: Endangered Species Photographer

Joel Sartore was born on June 16th, 1962 in Ponca City Oklahoma. He is a photographer, journalist, speaker, conservationist and teacher. He specializes in landscapes and documenting endangered species. He currently lives in Lincoln, Nebraska. He is the founder of Photo Ark, a documentary project spanning 25 years to save species and habitat.

Portrait of Golden Gliding Frog from Photo Ark

Sartore's interest in nature began when he learned of the last passenger pigeon in one of his mother's Time magazines. Joel Sartore graduated from University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a journalism degree.

A Bear salmon-fishing in Alaska (1999).

He's written various books including RARE: Portraits of America's Endangered Species, Photographing your Family and Let's be Reasonable.

Photo Ark portrait of several Monarch Butterflies.

Joel Sartore done a lot of work for National Geographic, Photo Ark in particular. He's also done work for the Audubon Magazine, Time, Life Newsweek, Sports Illustrated and various books.

Sandhill Cranes flying over the Platte River in Nebraska.

He mostly photographs animals in black or white backgrounds and has documented over 6,000 species in over 40 countries. He always makes sure to treat each animal he photographs with care or respect. Most of these are done in portrait style.

Photo Ark portrait of Fennec foxes

Sartore considers his quest to be to create a photo archive of the existing biodiversity. He once photographed the very last (now extinct) Rabb's Fringe-Limbed Tree Frog. Joel Sartore is a founding Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP).

Sartore photographing a Turtle. Notice the black sheet serving as a background.

One thing I certainly like about Sartore's photography is his use of a dark background to put all the focus on the animal itself, since they are the entire subject of the photograph. He also is able to catch a more amazing and sympathetic image of the creatures.

Photo of a Mexican Grey Wolf
  • The Composition consists of the wolf off-center to the right. The background is black with white specs, presumably snow. It leaves a lot of negative space in the left of the image.
  • The wolf is in excellent lighting that is not discolored, and it also reflects off the snow.
  • The wolf captures most of the attention of the image. This is because it is the large main subject in the foreground, and the also the most complex and only subject of the photo.
  • The mood is a majestic take at the creature, with the dark background and light on the wolf enhancing its regal image. The snow also makes the scene feel more dramatic.
  • The part I like most about the image is that it captures the wolf looking intently at something, not wavered by the snow. It gives the image an awesome look.

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