This month at the new National Geographic Fine Art Galleries on Las Olas Boulevard, visitors will see striking images from photographer Joel Sartore’s Photo Ark project showcasing threatened species from around the world.
Photographer Joel Sartore has waded through the muck, been attacked by insects and come face to face with bears—and that’s just on an easy day. With his latest and longest project, Photo Ark, he brings endangered species, such as the white Bengal Tiger, indoors to intimately photograph in dignified poses.
“[It] will take me the rest of my life to finish,” Sartore says. “I’ve been working on the Ark for more than 10 years and it’s become my life’s mission to be a messenger for these species.”
At the new National Geographic Fine Art Galleries on Las Olas Boulevard, visitors will be able to view Sartore’s striking images of Mother Nature’s creatures—from fluorescent tree frogs in South America to the pure white-furred wolves of North Alaska. The gallery will also showcase work from other National Geographic photographers.
Sartore, who has photographed for the publication for 25 years, captures images of animals that are endangered, often to the point of existing only within captivity. With his Photo Ark project, his goal is to photograph 12,000 species. He’s nearly halfway there, and many of the images have already been projected onto monolithic structures such as the Empire State Building, The United Nations Building and the Vatican. Additional images will be displayed at National Geographic Galleries, such as the one in Fort Lauderdale with the hope of raising awareness and funding for the endangered species.
“It gives me hope that others will hear the voices of these animals and shows me we’re raising awareness of the plight facing threatened species around the globe,” Sartore says.
He didn’t intend to create the Photo Ark project. It evolved when his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005. She relapsed a few years later, but today, her prognosis is good. To support her, Sartore stayed close to home in Nebraska and asked the Lincoln Children’s Zoo if he could photograph the animals there.
“They let me take a naked mole rat and put it on a white background. That’s how it all started—and that was nearly 6,000 species ago. We’ve got a lot more work to do,” Sartore says, who feels a moral obligation to document each creature and become a voice for the voiceless. “Having a close interaction—sometimes maybe too close for comfort—makes me feel the weight of responsibility even more so,” he says.
The interaction between Sartore and the animal is conveyed in each of the candid photographs. His work transports viewers to that very place where Sartore stood patiently waiting for the animal to “speak.” His project has evolved far beyond the Lincoln Children’s Zoo, involving more than 250 locations in 40 different countries. He’s traveled more than 300,000 miles for the project.
“The good news is that now is the best time ever to be alive to save species. There are animals that have been on the verge of extinction and have been saved,” Sartore says, adding that the whooping crane, black-footed ferret, California condor and Mexican gray wolf populations have all been stabilized.