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At Close Range: National Geographic Photographer To Speak

Joel SartoreJoel Sartore, an internationally known photographer for National Geographic, will speak at Ohio Northern University on Wednesday, April 8:
• Wilson Art Center, room 121, at 2p.m.
• Freed Center for the Performing Arts at 7 p.m.

Both events are free and open to the public. Sartore’s main-stage presentation at the Freed Center is entitled “Witnessing to Warming” which blends humor with powerful conservation messages and award-winning wildlife photography.

Sartore has worked for National Geographic since 1991. Featured in more than 20 magazine articles, Sartore’s photographs have made a permanent mark on the places and animals he’s chronicled. He has covered grizzly bears in the Canadian Rockies and Yellowstone National Park; exotic wildlife in the Amazon rain forest; Brazil’s Pantanal, the world’s largest freshwater wetland; and Alaska’s North Slope, where big oil, wild creatures and native populations collide in the largest remaining U.S. wilderness. In addition to National Geographic, Sartore’s work has appeared in Audubon, Life, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, Time and the “Day in the Life” book series.

This event is part of Polar Bear Nation, a yearlong campaign to raise awareness of climate change and its effects on the polar bear.

Sartore grew up in Ralston, Nebraska, a small town just outside Omaha. It wasn’t until college, when he saw his first black-and-white image starting to appear in a developing tray in his makeshift darkroom (a dorm room closet at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln) that he grew interested in photography.

Though he made a few stops along the way (about six years worth) before signing on with National Geographic, the die had been cast.

National Geographic associate editor Dennis Dimick says, “From the very first time I ever met him, you could tell that there was a spark. This wasn’t just work. It was passion. It was calling.”

Of course, there’s always a down side.

“You have to be really patient,” says Sartore. “If I weren’t Type A and very obsessive-compulsive, there’s no way I’d do this. Most shoots I’m covered with bugs... Most of the time it’s physically miserable, and if you weren’t wound tight like me to get good pictures, why in the world would you ever do something like this? I don’t think you could stand it!”

He stands it because he does get good pictures—and even a few great ones from time to time.

“When you’re done and you look back on the things and you see the picture you’ve got, then that’s just killer. There’s nothing better.”

Sartore the Environmentalist
Although he argues that he’s not “a tree hugger,” Sartore says he has seen one debacle after another as traveling the world—from the disastrous effects of clear-cutting rainforests to the types of mining that poisons streams and kills fish.

Sartore is pessimistic. “If you think about the stuff I’m photographing, it’s mainly ghosts. It’s all ghosts,” says Sartore. “Just little remnants. Just little bitty pockets of wildlife. That’s all that’s left… I’m just photographing the last of everything. Whether it’s wolves or grizzly bears or rhinos, jaguars or parrots in South America. It’s the last of everything I’m photographing. It’s really kind of tragic.”

On the positive side of the ledger, occasionally he gets to strike a blow for the cause of the natural world and its endangered species. There was a widespread public outcry when his pictures taken in Madidi were published in the Spanish language version of National Geographic with the heading “Madidi, Will Bolivia Drown its Spectacular New National Park?”