A vulnerable female griffon vulture, Gyps fulvus.(Photo by Joel Sartore)
PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

Joel Sartore is 75 percent toward his goal to photograph every species of bird, mammal, fish, reptile, amphibian and invertebrate that is in human care. He’s taken over 9,000 photos as part of a multiyear project for National Geographic called the “Photo Ark.”

Noah Strycker, a Godwit Days keynote speaker, helped Sartore in the avian category by penning the text for a 240-page book featuring more than 300 species of birds, “Birds of the Photo Ark.”

In a free public lecture that is part of the 24th annual Godwit Days festival, Strycker will share some of those photos selected from the coffee table book, which was published in 2018. The lecture will be held at the Arcata Community Center on Friday starting around 7 p.m.

In an email interview, Strycker gave the following answers:

Question: How did you get involved with the Photo Ark project?

Answer: I had just set a world “Big Year” record in birdwatching. Between January and December 2015, I traveled to 41 countries and observed 6,042 species of birds, about 60% of all the birds on Earth. Upon returning home from this adventure, I was contacted by an editor at National Geographic books who was interested in having me collaborate on a project. A photographer named Joel Sartore was working on a massive undertaking to document the world’s birds, by taking studio portraits of them, along with many other animals. It seemed perfect! We decided to create a book, “Birds of the Photo Ark,” featuring his images along with my essays about birds, to coincide with the Year of the Bird in 2018.

Q: How were these images taken?

A: Each bird is presented against either a plain black or white background, isolating it from any distractions. This is a different way to look at birds than we are used to: instead of nervous, flitty subjects, they are inches away, staring back at you. It’s impossible to do this in the wild, of course, so Joel travels to zoos, captive-breeding facilities, wildlife sanctuaries and other places where birds can pose for their portraits in a makeshift studio.

Q: Are these birds threatened in the wild?

A: The Photo Ark project does not discriminate among species — the whole idea is to show every species equally, illustrating the sheer diversity of birds. You’ll find images of turkeys, chickens and pigeons alongside rare and little-known birds like the critically endangered blue-billed curassow, of which only a couple hundred individuals remain in remote parts of Colombia. An increasing number of bird species face existential threats in the wild, from habitat destruction to pollution and climate change, and we hope that these beautiful images will show what’s at stake. It’s not necessarily any one bird we should be most concerned about, but rather the entire tapestry of life on Earth.

Q: What do you hope this book will achieve?

A: Without anthropomorphizing too much, I think that these pictures present birds as individuals rather than species — with moods, thoughts, feelings, attitudes and quirks. That shakes up our usual image of birds as wild, unknowable creatures. Of course, it’s fun to absorb the gorgeous photographs. But doing so also helps people connect with birds on a deeper level. And if that leads to a little more empathy for our feathered friends, then I think this book is a success

Photo Ark

The Photo Ark project — a photo archive of global biodiversity — was started by Sartore in 1995. He has visited 40 countries to ferret out creatures kept in captivity, a few of whom no longer exist in the wild. National Geographic hopes to inspire people to care and help protect these animals by “saving species through the power of photography.”

According to the National Geographic website, donations to the Photo Ark project fund on-the-ground conservation projects focused on species in most critical need of protection, as well as education programs that foster a real connection with, and appreciation for, fellow creatures. The project engages students in the classroom through free educational materials and activities and inspires the public through special exhibitions and events around the world. Museums and institutions host Photo Ark exhibitions to raise awareness for many species in need of greater conservation. Each exhibit features large-format prints, as well as a grid of many more images to highlight the range of species in the Photo Ark. Visitors are encouraged to take selfies with these impressive portraits to show their support.

For more information, visit https://nationalgeographic.org/projects/photo-ark or follow on Facebook or Instagram for current information.

blog comments powered by Disqus