In honour of Earth Day, we’re exploring the roles individuals and organizations play in spreading awareness of environmental issues, and the role images play in these conservation efforts. To get some insight, we spoke with accomplished conservation photographers and Adobe Stock Contributors Peter Chadwick and Tasha Van Zandt.
Transcendent photos with an earthly mission.
Peter Chadwick is a conservationist and photographer deeply committed to protecting African animals and their habitats. He’s a fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP) and has spent over 30 years photographing wild scenes with a purpose.
Peter’s current project is advocating against environmental crime, especially poaching. The work puts him on the ground with rangers and gives him a close-up view that comes through in the intensity of his work. “Through my training with specialized anti-poaching units, I have a unique photographic perspective of the effects of poaching. Not only are countless rhinos, elephants, and other species being savagely slaughtered, but there is a human cost. During the last decade, over 1,000 rangers have been killed while on duty. It is absolutely critical that we recognize the role these rangers are playing in conserving species and habitats or we will lose far more than just the rhino and the elephant.”
While much of Peter’s work captures the tragedies he’s witnessed, he intentionally captures the stunning beauty of animals in their natural habitats, too. This optimism is by design. “Powerful images can easily reach a large audience, transcending language and culture, and in so doing, hopefully bring about positive change,” explains Peter. “We need to show the incredible beauty and diversity of the planet in a positive light that makes people excited about protecting it.”
Photographs connect us to our shared world.
Tasha Van Zandt is a photographer, director, and conservationist. Her current documentary project traces a single melted drop in Antarctica as it ripples throughout the rest of the world. “Through my research on this documentary, I’ve realized just how closely we are all connected through water and the impact sea level rise will have on our world as a whole.”
For Tasha, conservation photography is a uniquely potent tool for making climate change real and personal to viewers. “Images can be one of the most powerful tools to create social change and build cultural bridges,” she explains. “So much of the opposition against conservation stems from simply not being able to clearly picture how our actions truly impact this planet and its people. Looking at an image has the ability to transport people outside of their personal worldview and into someone else’s.” This is why one of her main goals right now is to get photographs that tell environmental stories into the hands of policy and change makers.
The next generation of environmentalists.
For aspiring conservation photographers, Peter advises finding a project that you are passionate about, and researching as much as possible before picking up the camera. He adds, “Draw up an image list that will help you define your message, and offer a solution of hope for the future.” It’s key to have a call to action, so the public understands how they can make a meaningful difference.
Tasha recommends diving deep into the communities and environments whose stories you want to tell. “The closer you feel to your work, the higher the chance is that others will feel it too.” She also stresses the importance of delivering the message. “In nature photography the subject is defined by aesthetics, but in conservation photography, it’s important that the work uses those aesthetics to define conservation priorities,” she explains. Like Peter, Tasha believes that “conservation photography has the opportunity to be most powerful when it shows the world the beauty and importance of what’s being lost.”
Images of corporate responsibility.
While brands aren’t in the trenches of conservation like Peter and Tasha, more of them are raising the bar on sustainable practices. Sustainability initiatives help companies drive innovation and save costs on resources like energy and water. As more consumers demand eco-friendly products, these campaigns also help nurture customer loyalty and engagement. Like the work of conservation photographers, beautiful images take center stage in many of the campaigns.
Patagonia’s Worn Wear campaign encouraged customers to share stories and images of their favorite, most enduring pieces of Patagonia clothing. The campaign created public visibility and facilitated conversation among their customers, and underscores the company’s commitment to making “high-quality stuff that lasts for years and can be repaired, so you don’t have to buy more of it.”
Hellmann’s Grow with Us campaign invited consumers to virtually visit tomato farms, interact with farmers, and learn about the sustainability of the brand’s supply chain. As part of the campaign, striking views of nature helped drive home the why of sustainability. Efforts like these aren’t just good for the earth, they also have financial pay off. Last year, Unilever announced that their five biggest brands were sustainable, and that they grew 30 percent faster than the rest of the business.
Eco-friendly visual trends.
As we wrote earlier this month, we’ve seen growth in stock searches for nature over the last year. Even searches for urban images tend to show a balance between man-made elements and the natural elements around them. This visual trend seems to be a piece of the bigger environmental picture — breathtaking images of nature remind us of our responsibility to own our impact.
To see more powerful images or nature, browse through our dedicated Earth Day collection.