Latest Episodes and Special Features

“Only when I was able to relinquish control, to give up, to embrace hopelessness, was I able to start to see some semblance of order.”

Cory Richards’ camera has taken him from the runway to the wild and remote corners of world, from Antarctica’s unclimbed peaks to the Himalayas of Nepal and Pakistan, in an attempt to capture not only the soul of exploration, but also the beauty of modern society.

Cory is a passionate mountain climber on the North Face athletic team, and has carved a niche as one of the world’s leading adventure and expedition photographers.

Cory delivers stunning commercial and editorial images, and his client list includes National Geographic magazine, Outside, The New York Times, Red Bull, and Fossil.

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On community

“Community, above all else, is probably the most impactful thing that we can engage in.”

On growing up

“I wanted to fight everything, and that has been both a blessing and an absolute curse to this day.”

“I always felt very persecuted. I think that comes from a place of privilege, and sort of unknowing privilege. It comes from a place of entitlement. I didn’t know how good I really had it.”

“I couldn’t function as a normal human because I was so enamored with the lifestyle, and not understanding that you had to work for that lifestyle.”

On early success

“There’s a little bit of a curse that comes to getting it young. At the time I got my first [National Geographic] article I was 29. That’s young. I don’t think I was totally prepared for how that was going to push my life. It’s been a real struggle since then.”

“Getting the work a little bit later can be really valuable; you just know how to handle it a little bit more. You’re more prepared, you’re more adept, you have a bigger toolkit.”

“I think we always know when we’re getting blown up, but there’s something deeply addictive about ego.”

On hitting rock bottom

“I remember just laying on this carpet, and the smell of this empty rented house, and the shitty blinds, and just sobbing because I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. It was the absolute most vacuous place I’ve ever been.”

“I got divorced, I left my production company, I left my primary sponsor – and I did all that in a month. I burned my life down.”

On relinquishing control

“What really puts things in perspective for me is how far out of control my life managed to get when I was controlling it.”

“Only when I was able to relinquish control, to give up, to embrace hopelessness, was I able to start to see some semblance of order.”

On the authenticity of being authentic

“Being vulnerable helps. It helps me be honest. It helps me say, ‘Okay, I’m not lying. I’m no longer hiding anything.’ Because I feel like when we hide things, we become unhealthy.”

“I have to put myself in check and say, ‘Okay, am I being honest in this moment out of an authentic place or out of a place of: I want to be vulnerable because I know it works?’ That’s a very thoughtful process. You cannot escape that, and if you try to escape it, that’s not authentic.”

On seeking external validation

“When you’re relying on external validation as your source of value, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Those are very, very, lightweight skinny bowling pins, and you’re using a wrecking ball.”

On photography for a cause

“I think I’m in the process right now of getting out of my own way, getting out of the way of myself in order to actually start using photography to my greatest capacity.'”

“The sooner we can start to understand that we are not separate from the world, but we are very much tied to it, I think we’re going to have a lot more success both with ourselves as a human family, but also with solving the problems that we’re creating.”

“We’re engaging in a space right now where we have to teach the world to love itself a little bit.”

On identity

“There’s a lot of bullshit that comes with identity. In fact identity itself is bullshit.”

“If all this goes away tomorrow the legacy that I choose, the legacy that I want, the legacy that I value, is that I lived with integrity, I was honest, and I was a good person who lived in service.'”

“Only recently am I coming to terms and understanding what Andrew Phelps, my first photography mentor, actually meant when he said to me: ‘Cory, you’re probably going to be good at this and I just want you to remember. Never, ever, ever let what you do become who you are.'”

On the photographic process

“It’s an expression of my most inner space. It is a very meditative act where you do actually connect with a moment completely. It helps work through some of the mud of life and the emotions that we tend to push down. It becomes an expression of those.”

“On a very superficial level, it’s a game. It’s fun. It’s sneaky. It’s a dance. It’s a balance. How do I be delicate? How do I be intimate? How do I engage without invading? How do I maintain sort of this fly on the wall status? All of that is a very, very fun thing to do and I think it’s very valuable. Because, that’s what allows us to create emotive art and any art that creates emotion – elicits an emotional response – is, I think, valuable and good.”

“Composition, light, all of that stuff comes with observation… I actually pity people that it comes naturally to because there’s so much value in learning and seeing and being with light and time.”

On the dangers of feeling entitled

“When we start thinking of ourselves as entitled, that’s like buying a ticket on the Titanic. The old model is going down. We have to figure out how to innovate and be creative with how we move forward, not adhere to an antiquated past.”

On being a specialist

“Being a specialist has its upsides. People who are known for one thing tend to do very, very well. In order to be that one person, the Marco Grob of the world doing the portraits on every cover of Time or every celebrity or the Paul Nicklens or the Jimmy Chins of the adventure world, all of whom I look up to, I don’t want to be that. I have no interest in being that specialized.”

On having the best job in the world

“I would never say that I don’t have the best job in the world. I do. I hear that all the time. It’s too long of a conversation to have, nor would I want to have it with everybody, but at the same time you’re like: ‘it is the best job in the world, but be careful. Be careful what you wish for.'”

Joel Sartore © Cole Sartore

“I’ve never had anybody [at National Geographic] tell me what to do. There’s never an agenda, I mean, never. They just let me go out and be a journalist. As long as I’m a responsible person and respect that, I’m okay, and that’s the way they expect us to be good, truth-telling journalists, and just to show what we see.”

Joel Sartore is a photographer, filmmaker, speaker, author, teacher, conservationist, National Geographic Fellow, and a regular contributor to National Geographic magazine. His hallmarks are a sense of humor and a Midwestern work ethic.

Joel specializes in documenting endangered species and landscapes in a way that draws attention to a world worth saving. He is the founder of The Photo Ark, a multiyear documentary project to bring awareness to endangered species, habitats, and the biodiversity necessary for healthy ecosystems. Joel has contributed to numerous magazines, books, and national broadcasts including National Geographic Explorer, NBC Nightly News, NPR, PBS, and CBS Sunday Morning.

He is always happy to return home to Lincoln, Nebraska to his wife and their three children.

Visit Joel’s website.

Coincidentally, Joel’s latest National Geographic Story on small cats features a friend and colleague of mine, Jim Sanderson, and the work of Global Wildlife Conservation in protecting endangered and forgotten species.

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On the power of photography

“It’s harder to lie with photos.”

“Even if you were to stitch one person’s head onto another person’s body, it’s easy to discern that, it’s easy to see that it’s fake. So people do have a visual sophistication about them as never before, and that plays to our advantage – if you’re a good journalist and you’re telling the world what’s going on. They can tell whether or not you’ve been truthful right off the bat.”

“The fastest thing on the web is a still photograph”

On journalistic rigor

“The first thing they teach you on the first day of [journalism] class is, spell people’s names right, because that’s the one thing people are going to care about the most, and you’re going to hear from them.”

On the importance of being a specialist

“Even the generalists are known for lighting things a certain way or having a certain style, so they specialize too. You better be really great at something if you want to be employable.”

On shooting for National Geographic

“I’ve never had anybody [at National Geographic] tell me what to do. There’s never an agenda, I mean, never. They just let me go out and be a journalist. As long as I’m a responsible person and respect that, I’m okay, and that’s the way they expect us to be good, truth-telling journalists, and just to show what we see.”

On the evolution of photography

“Am I angry that the web has reduced the number of print journalism jobs?” One, you can’t fight the tide, and two, there’s no way I’d want to go back. We can let the world know right away when there’s an environmental problem or when somebody does something very well and it’s something we’re celebrating.”

On the Photo Ark

“It was an 11-year overnight success.”

“A mouse is every bit as vital and interesting and big as an elephant on these backgrounds.”

“It’s the only chance they’re going to have to be seen alive looking good, and big, and beautiful.”

“I’m bummed continually that I didn’t start the project until I was half dead. I started it at 42. I should have started it at 20 but I just didn’t … It just took that long to come to me.”

“I would have encouraged myself to not worry about the money, and start shooting that project then.”

“It’s easy to be critical, it’s harder to do something positive and constructive”.

“There’s never been a better time to save species, because there’s never been so many on the ropes. But also people have a lot of information at their fingertips. They want to be heroes to themselves and their friends and family.”

On learning manmade light

“The lighting couldn’t have gotten any worse than it was at the start. I’d been shooting for the Geographic for 20 years almost and just didn’t really understand the properties of manmade light. I’m starting to learn that now. I’ve still got a long way to go, but I’m starting to learn it. I like the fact that photography’s very hard to master and it’s infinite in its variety. I like that.”

Jim Richardson on Fair Isle, Scotland © Kathy Richardson

“I gave up on the idea of objectivity. I don’t mean I gave up on the idea of truth. I gave up on this idea that you can be intimately involved with a place and not rely on your emotions and all the complex of things you know to help you understand the place.”

Richardson first began using a camera as a youngster on his parents’ wheat and dairy farm north of Belleville in north-central Kansas. He began experimenting with his father’s second-hand box camera, photographing the world of the farmstead for display at the Republic County Fair.

Now, his combined areas of expertise include volcanoes, agriculture, rivers and aquifers, and the United Kingdom, especially the people, culture, and landscape of Scotland, his Scotland, his family’s native Cornwall, and the wider Celtic world. His work has made him a prized speaker and visual presenter around the world.

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“It hardly matters what the subject matter is; it’s your understanding of it that’s going to bring life to it.”

“You can find the depth anywhere. The trick is knowing what to look for.”

“If we find photographs compelling there is probably some underlying reason and it would behoove us to examine what we’re getting out of it. [We should not be] too deterministic about the photographic frame that we use, the style.”

On objectivity and truth

“I gave up on the idea of objectivity. I don’t mean I gave up on the idea of truth. I gave up on this idea that you can be intimately involved with a place and not rely on your emotions and all the complex of things you know to help you understand the place.”

“We have to understand both how [photography] works and how it fails, otherwise this sort of glib idea that the camera tells the truth is actually destructive if it stops us from seeking a better understanding.”

On being a photographer in the digital age

“Photography has become another language. It’s how we speak, it’s how we share our thoughts and wishes and dreams, how we share our daily life down to the most mundane levels.”

“Photographs have come down from the gallery wall and joined everybody at the water cooler.”

“We used to have gatekeepers. If Bob Gilka at National Geographic thought you were one of the great photographers of the world, that’s all you needed. If you could convince that one person, you’re in. Now, when you post on Instagram, you have to convince all of those. I’ve got 375,000 followers – I have to convince them on a one-to-one basis each time that they ought to punch the like button.”

“We need to retune how we think about it and what reality really looks like as opposed to what it looks like when we doll it up and make it interesting.”

On community

“You can probably know the names of up to about 1000 people. But beyond that, no matter what size of the city, we’re all living in communities of 300 people.”

“The real interest comes in figuring out how these places work. Invariably, that comes down to how are people there bringing meaning to their lives. That what you see in front of you is the outward expression of what is going on invisibly in their minds.”

On being a contrarian

“There was a bit of anti-social angst in a teenage kid. The photography was a way of reaching some sort of creative productivity. Without sort of giving in to everybody else’s norms. I guess you could just say it was teen rebellion carried out with the twin-lens reflex.”

“I had a true aversion to doing anything that other people would glibly think you had to do.”

“I have always been satisfied standing off by myself… I have always been comfortable not being the prime player.”

“I was going anti-documentary, anti-photojournalism, and becoming something very different from what I had anticipated being.”

“To be able to be amazed on a regular basis – it’s not easy, but you can work on this, you can work on that garden in your mind.”

Matthieu Paley is a National Geographic photographer living between the remote and a small village on the Aegean coast in Turkey.

For the past 16 years Matthieu has embarked on assignments for various magazines all over the world, from the base camp of the highest unclimbed mountain in the world in Bhutan to Nauru, the world’s smallest republic in the middle of the Pacific ocean. He has published numerous books including a book on Siberia, a monograph on Mongolia, a commissioned book about Nomadic America and a crowd-funded book on the Evolution of Diet which started as a National Geographic assignment: documenting the lifestyle of self sufficient communities all over the world. His longest book project, “Pamir, Forgotten on the roof of the World”, lasted 12 years and began unexpectedly in 1999, on a high mountain pass on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Matthieu’s images have been exhibited in private galleries all over the world. He is a member of The Photo Society, a group of contributing photographers for National Geographic magazine, and is represented by National Geographic Creative.

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On being mindful and present

“You have to be mindful of what makes you happy. I knew that, for example, with social media, there’s aspect to it that kind of make me feel that I’m not doing enough as a photographer. Of course, if you look at Facebook feed and you see all this poppy, beautiful news of everybody winning prizes, and you’re sitting there in your village in Turkey, you can feel depressed. You need confidence and strength to be able to just remind yourself that this is not the case. You need to just be mindful if it affects your mental state.”

“This whole thing with Social Media, people are spending more time promoting themselves than being themselves. It’s kind of ironic.”

“Living in the moment is very difficult and it seems everything has been worked out now with technology to make you live forward and backward but not in it. “

“To be able to be amazed on a regular basis – it’s not easy, but you can work on this, you can work on that garden in your mind.”

“I learned to, when I’m home, be really there.”

On the element of surprise and pushing the limits

“I don’t think it’s good to know your equipment too well because you can’t surprise yourself visually.”

“If I surprise myself with the image I know the viewer will be surprised too, and that’s a good thing. I like to shoot in this situation where the camera is at its limit, in terms of technology or aperture, where there is barely any depths of field and you have to work with that.”

On storytelling and feeling

“It’s never a one-sided story. There’s always the other side. And it’s too easy to comply with what people want to hear about violence.”

“This job I did in Pakistan that was published three weeks ago, I shot it with a camera that cost 500 euros. It’s a little point and shoot. The point is the story. The point is not the equipment.”

“Your images should be drenched in feeling, I think, really drenched in it. From all levels, from whatever you are photographing to the way you prepare it.”

“I tend to pre-visualize a lot, even if I don’t know the place. Usually in bed at night before I fall asleep I start to see things.”

On earning the right to be an eye witness

“You know, it’s not only about getting the beautiful picture. It’s also about feeling that you deserve to be here and a witness of what’s going on. And to be able to live with it and not feel you’re raping or stealing that image.”

“I managed to slowly make my way into people’s hearts and people’s homes by being myself really.”

On overcoming self-doubt

“That doubt that I had at the beginning, as to whether I could really make a living out of it … my passion was replacing the doubt, slowly.”

img_7139“What I’m doing is creating something that can go out there, and be seen, and then never be unseen.”

Asher Jay is an artist whose compelling paintings, sculptures, installations, animations, ad campaigns, and films all have a single purpose: to incite global action on behalf of wildlife conservation. 

Asher’s travels to the frontline have made her witness and story-teller, combatting illegal wildlife trafficking, promoting habitat sanctuaries and illuminating humanitarian emergencies. Her core message, again and again: biodiversity loss during the Anthropocene – the Age of Man.

Much of her best-known work spotlights the illegal ivory trade. In 2013, grassroots group March for Elephants asked her to visualize the blood ivory story on a huge, animated digital billboard in New York’s Times Square. Viewed by 1.5 million people, the internationally crowd-funded initiative aimed to provoke public pressure for revising laws that permit ivory to be imported, traded and sold. Asher also participated in the Faberge Big Egg Hunt in New York, where her oval ornament helped raise money for anti-poaching efforts in Amboseli.

A nomadic globe trotter who fell in love with New York while studying at Parson’s New School of Design, Asher Jay is determined to motivate you to understand you have real power in determining nature’s fate, and our wild future.

“Conservation can no longer afford to be marginalized,” she asserts. “Today, we need everyone.”

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On being an extroverted introvert

“I just loved the spotlight, and so that’s something that’s very hard to give up. It’s a bizarre thing. It’s like a social addiction. It’s like I just feed off of that energy…”

“I love my own company. I love being alone… then, I can make things happen. I can think in big spaces and push outside of me. I can expand and occupy the whole space that I’m in, which never happens when there’s other energies stifling it … I just can’t have another energy physically in my space because then it inhibits my thinking and my creative expression.”

On art

“It educates, it empowers, it encourages, it enables, it opens your whole world up in a way that it can never be expanded otherwise because everything else is so linear. This is all immersion, and I think if we can do that it shouldn’t do less.”

“The art world should take it upon itself to reach the masses … There’s a massive disconnect. I think that there is why art is not reflective of anything. A lot of contemporary art is just bogus.”

“I just think the truth of our times is what art should stand for. True art does reflect that, because the artist reflects that. He is a vessel to our times; she is a vessel to our times.”

“As a kid I used to go lick paintings all the time in museums and galleries. That’s how I knew I liked that work. When I create, if I don’t feel that, that means the work isn’t resolved, and it’s flat. I’ll work at it until I feel like I want to eat it.”

“When you have genuine insight, you own it. It becomes you.”

On creating art in the digital age

“My art has to co-evolve with this alternate reality that it’s not physically created for.”

On good business

“I don’t come from an arts background, I come from a design background. The distinguishing fact to that is that with design you’re taught that it’s a business.”

“Being an artist means that you’re not that good at selling because you’re so wrapped up in the creative process. It’s very hard to break out of that and be a shark. It’s a seduction. You’re going to lure them in and give them what they think they want.”

On delivering her message and motivating action

“I want to communicate the atrocities that are happening around the world, but I want to do it in a way where people feel enabled to participate.”

“People always assume the obvious thing has been said.”

“I’m always looking at the alphabet, not at the complex sentence. I want to give people great basic structure with which they can build out the larger narrative.”

“What I’m doing is creating something that can go out there, and be seen, and then never be unseen.”

“That’s what my images accomplish – they create this baseline upon which everyone can stand and say ‘this is what we’re moving toward.”

“I hate that Hollywood always takes you past that ‘now what’ moment, which is the best moment to leave the audience at, and gives you a happy ending. I’m like, “That’s rubbish”. Life is never ending there. It leaves you in the ‘now what’ moments throughout and that’s the whole point. You’re missing the point if you’re not in a ‘now what’.”

burcham-1“Hanging on a rope and shooting a rock climber, there’s a lot going on. You’re usually in pretty spectacular places. But to go meet and greet someone for the first time and bring home a good portrait, to me that’s more nerve-racking.”

John Burcham is most at home climbing new routes up the often fragile and absurd sandstone spires of Sedona, but has been adventuring and photographing since college. From his experiences working at a fish cannery to a decade spent living in Alaska, John has developed qualities that differentiate him from others in the field. His blue-collar work ethic and love for wild places allow him to capture still and moving images in exploration and adventure from otherwise inaccessible perspectives under grueling conditions. All the while, John smiles.

Whether he’s shooting high in the Himalayas, in a hospital operating room, or at a studio in town, John constantly engages with his collaborators, subjects, and environment. He has worked for healthcare and outdoor clients including National Geographic, The New York Times, the History Channel, Kahtoola Snowshoes, and Sherpa Adventure Gear.

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On pushing out of his comfort zone

“Hanging on a rope and shooting a rock climber, there’s a lot going on. You’re usually in pretty spectacular places, but to go meet and greet someone for the first time and bring home a good portrait, to me that’s more nerve-racking.”

On suffering and self doubt

“From my expeditions I learned it’s about being able to suffer. It’s work and it doesn’t stop. You sleep wondering if you got the shot. I don’t come home like, ‘Oh I’ve got it in the bag.'”

On getting THE photograph

 “You give [20 photographers] the same equipment, in the same room, to do a portrait, and you’re going to get 20 different photographs. Are two or three going to be better than the others? Yes. And then why are those better? Design is such a hard thing. How do you teach it? How do you learn from it? Because there isn’t a right answer.”

“Experience, no experience, there’s no right answer other than the photo. We all know when we see that. That photograph.”

On the importance of finding your own inspiration

“Like musicians try not to listen to too much, just get out and start creating. I’m trying to do more of that.”

On mentors

“I’d say going back I would definitely have wanted to learn more. Even back then, I should have learned lighting techniques, studied some of the other [photographers]. One of the big influencers was Galen Rowell back in the day. I’d read his book Mountain Light and that blew me away – it was a turning point… he was a huge mentor I think to all adventure photographers. He’s the man.”

“Video crews, they work together, and photographers have always been the lone artists. It’s fun when you can work with someone. You’re 2 people that can speak the same language, and I find that’s a good way to learn.”

On the importance of never stopping learning 

“that’s why I’ll never tire of it, because the learning curve never stops. It’s like an exploration.”






toensingheadshot_2013“I look back and think I was so naive. But I actually treasure that I had that opportunity to be naive about it. It was beautiful … There was a freedom to not knowing how intense the pressure can be.”

Amy Toensing, an American photojournalist committed to telling stories with sensitivity and depth, is known for her intimate essays about the lives of ordinary people.
Toensing has been a regular contributor to National Geographic magazine for over a decade and recently completed her fifteenth feature story for them. She has covered cultures around the world including the last cave dwelling tribe of Papua New Guinea, the Maori of New Zealand and the Kingdom of Tonga. She has also covered issues such as the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina and Muslim women living in Western culture. For 4 years she documented Aboriginal Australia which was published in the June, 2013 issue of National Geographic magazine.

Toensing’s work has been exhibited throughout the world and recognized with numerous awards, including an exhibit at the 2012 Visa Pour L’image, Festival of the Photograph in Perpignan France. Her work has also appeared in Smithsonian, The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Time Magazine, and National Geographic Traveler. A photograph she took in the Australian outback was chosen as one of National Geographic magazine’s all time 50 Best Photos. Toensing began her professional career in 1994 as a staff photographer at her hometown paper, The Valley News, in New Hampshire. She then worked for The New York Times, Washington D.C. bureau covering the White House and Capitol Hill during the Clinton administration. In 1998, Toensing left D.C. to receive her Master’s Degree from the School of Visual Communication at Ohio University.

In addition to her photojournalism work, Toensing is committed to teaching photography to kids and young adults in underserved communities. This includes working with the non-profit organization VisionWorkshops on numerous projects including teaching photography to Somali and Sudanese refugees in Maine, Burmese refugees in Baltimore, young Pakistanis in Islamabad and children and adults in South Sudan and Jordan.

Toensing lives in the Hudson Valley of New York with her husband Matt Moyer, who is also a photojournalist.

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On humanity

“Everything for me has humanity in it. Even if I’m doing a story on the drought. What’s the human impact? I’m always looking for the humanity in every story.”

On developing as a photographer

“I look back and think I was so naive. But I actually treasure that I had that opportunity to be naive about it. It was beautiful.”

“There was a freedom to not knowing how intense the pressure can be.”

“I try really hard to acknowledge how wonderful it’s been when I have opened up myself to different ways of seeing things. I’ve always been rewarded when I do that.”

“The most beautiful thing about photography is that I’m always rewarded when I put in the time. I think that’s a really wonderful life lesson that I don’t think I’m very good at applying to everything in my life. But I do know with photography that I really trust that – it’s about being present, being there, and giving the time to somebody or something.”

“One way that I’ve been most shaped by another person is when they’re pulling images out that I took, but I didn’t even see it, and it’s like they’re pulling things out of me that I didn’t even know I had. I think that’s probably the strongest way you can teach somebody, because you’re not saying ‘well you should go out and do this and that and you should approach it this way’. You’re actually finding things within them and celebrating them.”

“Whoever we work for, there’s always these pressures, and the real goal is to keep all those voices out and stay true to your artist’s voices.”

“I think the biggest challenge for a photographer is cultivating their instinct to know when you’re in the right spot and when you’re not, and when its time to leave or time to stay.”

“That’s the really, really hard thing, with our work; how do you take information and then get it to a photograph, but in some sort of beautiful, visual way? That’s hard. How do you get your camera out of the way?”

On advice for aspiring photographers

“I wouldn’t encourage people to go straight through and study photography. It’s like writing. What are you going to say?”

On teaching

“I love teaching, and it also gives me a break from myself and my work. I think that it’s a really great challenge. To try to frame things and get outside of your head to explain your own process.”

“One thing I love the most when I’m doing some of the workshops, especially the National Geographic photo camp, is editing. I really love working with the kids, but I really love just looking at other people’s work. I find that really like a psychological study.”

On shooting for National Geographic

“I think my first few stories at Geographic, I was probably, to a fault, not acknowledging what the formula is for a Geographic story.”



“With the democratization of voices you can start to build an audience and talk to that audience and say what you want to say. You can become your own publishing platform. It can make a difference. It is one of the most exciting times to be a photographer.”

Tyrone Turner is an independent photographer based in Arlington, VA, who has traveled extensively shooting stories focusing on social and environmental issues. As a contributing photographer for National Geographic Magazine, he has produced stories on the disappearing wetlands of Louisiana; increasing hurricane threats; the coasts of the United States; a special issue on hurricane Katrina; the rebuilding of New Orleans, and a cover story on energy efficiency and conservation. Tyrone was part of the Nat Geo team covering the Gulf Oil Spill in 2010. From August, 2014 to August 2015, Tyrone collaborated with the Nat Geo Proof blog, producing still and multimedia stories about New Orleans as the ten year anniversary of Katrina approached.

Tyrone has won awards from the Pictures of the Year competition (POY) as well as The Best of Photojournalism (BOP). He was recently was named as a Fellow with the Virginia Museum of Fine Art for 2016-2017.

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On dealing with the highs and lows

“Everybody goes through highs and lows. The highs are a lot of fun. The lows are hard. If this were easier, then even more people would be doing it. But the lows are when you really need to kind of boil down what you’re doing, and what your vision is. Also really tapping into your community for the support. Then giving that back.”

Advice from his father

“Things are never as bad as they seem. But they’re also never as good.”

On advice to young photographers

“I find that people will take a picture and then escape. And that’s really blowing an opportunity to connect with the person. To get a little bit more.”

On his path to National Geographic

“I did not know how to get to National Geographic, and it seemed like a very long road to get to people at the magazine.”

On the challenges and opportunities of being a photographer today

“As people struggle with the economic models of photography and photojournalism, especially with the media outlets either being smaller, like not as many assignments or not paying that much. There are just not as many jobs out there. It’s really become a smaller marketplace in that way. There’s this real economic challenge. At the same time, there’s just this huge explosion of how you connect to people, and so that’s really heartwarming.”

“With the democratization of voices you can start to build an audience and talk to that audience and say what you want to say. You can become your own publishing platform. It can make a difference. It is one of the most exciting times to be a photographer.”

“The media that’s out there, it saturates, but I think that that’s a real opportunity because then the people who have a little more clearer thing to say, the people who have better pictures, who have something that they’re really passionate about and they can do it in a good way… that stands out amongst the chatter.”

On specializing

“To come to the forefront of someone’s mind, they need to have an image attached to it, so they know who they are going to and why.”

“It seems that what is valuable in the marketplace is being able to stand out for one thing.”

On evaluating his images in the field

“I’m surprised a lot of times by how hit and miss that evaluation is. Sometimes, I’ll come back, and I think, “Man, I really nailed that,” and you know, it’s all right. Sometimes you think, “Man, I didn’t get that,” but then you’re missing what you did get from the situation.”

On shooting difficult and traumatic situations

“Sometimes you’re in situations where it feels like people judge you as pariahs, or of really taking advantage of people, but I don’t see that at all. I see it as walking with people, and you’re interpreting through a lens.”

“It would feel worse to walk away without a good picture.”

Rena Effendi © Maria Ionova-Gribina

© Maria Ionova-Gribina

“In the media, you see events, and events have a tendency to be forgotten. You kind of look, and you forget, and I think there’s a lot more staying power if you lay down a gallery of faces.”

And staying power is what Rena Effendi achieves through a thoughtful, reflective and deliberate approach to photography, shunning the immediate gratification of the digital camera to shoot film, and in doing so, telling enduring stories from the shadows

Rena is a fellow National Geographic Creative photographer born in Baku, Azerbaijan. She grew up in the USSR, witnessing her country’s path to independence—one marred by war, political instability, and economic collapse. From the outset, Effendi focused her photography on issues of conflict, social justice, and the oil industry’s effect on people and the environment. From 2002 to 2008, Effendi followed a 1,700-kilometer pipeline through Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey documenting the impact this multibillion-dollar project had on impoverished farmers, fishermen, and other citizens. This six-year journey became her first book Pipe Dreams: A Chronicle of Lives Along the Pipeline, published in 2009. The project received numerous awards, including a Getty Images Editorial grant, a Fifty Crows International Fund Award, a Magnum Foundation Caucasus Photographer Award, and a Mario Giacomelli Memorial Fund Award. In 2012, Effendi published her second monograph “Liquid Land”, where her images of Baku are paired with photographs of perished butterflies hunted by her father, a Soviet entomologist, who collected more than 30,000 butterflies in Soviet Union. “Liquid Land” punctuates the theme of fragility and environmental decay of her native city.

Over the past 10 years, Effendi has covered stories in the post-Soviet region, as well as in Turkey and Iran, including the 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict, women victims of heroin and sex trafficking in Kyrgyzstan, and the hidden lives of youth in Tehran. In 2011, she received the Prince Claus Fund Award for Cultural Development and moved to Cairo. In 2012, Effendi was short-listed for the Prix-Pictet Global Award for Photography and Sustainability, for her series documenting life of the survivors of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Effendi’s involvement with World Press Photo goes back to 2005, when she was a participant in the Joop Swart Masterclass. In 2012, she was a selector for, and later contributor to the organization’s Reporting Change project. In 2014 Rena Effendi won 2nd and 3rd places in Observed Portrait Stories and Observed Potrait Singles categories of the World Press Photo Contest.

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On guilt

“Sometimes I feel guilty. I mean, I realize that I shouldn’t, but there’s always this moment where you’re in a place and there’s a lot of despair in that place – the people, the way they live, and the circumstances in which they’ve found themselves are not good. Then you realize you’re going to walk away from there, and you will be fine and then they’re still there.”

“There’s this part of me which thinks in a way I prey upon the misery. That’s the nature of this job unfortunately. It’s the flip side in a way, because we’re paid for it. At the same time, there is no harm in it. By being there I’m not doing something bad for the people. I’m not harming the people.”

“I would not walk away from the stories just because I’m not strong enough. I think these are important stories. They need to be told.”

“When you look at a photograph that’s sad or horrific or when you look at photograph that’s full of light and happy, they all belong, they all have a right to be.”

On self doubt

“Every story, there’s always this self-doubt, “Oh my God.” I arrived in Mumbai that first day. It was pure anxiety. I was really worried. Then, you know what? The magic happens when you take the camera in your hands and you start working. Then all the stress, all anxiety, everything, it’s like meditation. Everything goes away. You’re so focused on the pictures that you can’t physically think about … Mentally, there’s no mental space to think about anything else. That is, there’s no mental space for anxiety. You can’t have it.”

“I compare it to meditation because it’s hyper focus. The way you see things when you are photographing is very different, and it’s much more concentrated focus than when you’re just walking around. You’re in a different state of being completely.”

On storytelling

“I think it’s important to go in with some kind of structure in your head of what, how you want to tell the story. Not necessarily the shots but what feelings you want to convey, what is the flow in a way, and what elements would make it into a narrative? What elements do you need to build a narrative?”

On Rena’s approach to photography

“With film I wait a lot in between, I don’t shoot. I wait and I observe, and it’s much more focused. That’s the main difference for me, the main difference in digital.”

“In the media, you see events, and events have a tendency to be forgotten. You kind of look, and you forget, and I think there’s a lot more staying power if you lay down a gallery of faces.”

“I don’t think that the gear gets between me and the subject. I think when we have a tiny camera, we are already an outsider and the subject is already looking at us like we’re space aliens. It doesn’t matter what you have in your hands, a phone or a crazy looking camera.”

On photography as a tool for change

“I try to keep an even bar of my expectation and not be too romantic about it. [Change as a result of my photographs] is not something I can predict or guarantee.”

“Social change is very important but I think also information is very important. Informing the public about these things, about these issues, about these places, is as important.”


“I decided go big or go home, so I opened my talk by doing an impression of [Steve Winter’s] American accent, which I knew would either go down like a lead balloon or he’d find it vaguely amusing. Luckily he found it funny and after my talk offered me a job.”

Bertie Gregory is a 23-year-old wildlife filmmaker, photographer and presenter.  In July 2014, he graduated in Zoology with First Class Honours from the University of Bristol and the next day boarded a plane to begin assisting Steve Winter in South Africa on assignment for National Geographic Magazine. Following this baptism of fire, the project evolved into a television program documenting Steve as he attempted to photograph the urban leopards of Mumbai and the jungle leopards of Sri Lanka. The one-hour special premiered in the US on Nat Geo WILD in January 2016.

Bertie was named the Scientific Exploration Society Zenith Explorer 2015. His quest to track down and film the illusive coastal wolf on the west coast of Vancouver Island, Canada, evolved into his first solo assignment for National Geographic- a 16-part series that launched August 3rd… Click here to watch new episodes weekly.

Prior to landing the job with Steve Winter, Bertie was named ‘Youth Outdoor Photographer Of The Year 2012’ and his first film, ‘West Coast Adventure’, was nominated for the Youth Award at the Wildscreen Panda Awards 2014.

Bertie has a fascination with urban wildlife. This came about whilst photographing peregrine falcons in London and Bristol as one of the2020VISION Young Champions, the multimedia initiative that aims to communicate the link between human wellbeing and habitat restoration.

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On confidence

The whole confidence thing is just an act, behind which is a worrier. I get that from my dad – he’s the kind of person that makes us leave 5 hours early to get to the airport and packs a snow shovel in the middle of summer… But it makes you care.

On photography as a way to explain where he’s been

Because everyone thought I was such a freak, it was quite a nice way to explain where I’d been the last four hours by myself.

On wooing Steve Winter to hire him as an assistant at WILDPHOTO

I’ve got 15 minutes during my talk when no-one can interrupt me, and he’s got to be listening. So I kind of treated it as a job interview. I decided go big or go home, so I opened my talk by doing an impression of his American accent, which I knew would either go down like a lead balloon or he’d find it vaguely amusing. Luckily he found it funny and after my talk offered me a job. I thought about it for about 0.5 seconds.

Advice for aspiring wildlife photographers

When people say, “I want to be a wildlife photographer.” That’s awesome, go take pictures of wildlife. Everyone’s got a camera in their pocket now, so just go out and do it. I’d say with wildlife photography particularly, your knowledge of wildlife, your ability to get close to it, is so much more important than any technical ability, so if you don’t have access to an amazing camera, that’s not a problem. Focus on getting really good at sneaking up on animals because that’s what’s going to help you.

On the importance of personal brand

Now that the personal brand of the photographer or filmmaker is so important you can’t just hide behind your pictures and that’s what people know you for. Because that’s becoming more and more important you are much more prone to coming in and out of favor.

What I’m learning more and more is yeah, you can be the best photographer, the best wildlife cameraman/camerawoman in the world, but if you can’t communicate with people – not necessarily on a large scale, I just mean individually, I’m finding with networking, just trying to be personable and like-able really quickly.

On studying a degree in Zoology as preparation for being a wildlife photographer and filmmaker

Whilst I wouldn’t say I learned that much about sneaking up on animals that I use on a day-to-day basis now as profession, what I did learn is how science works, how scientists’ brains work. And so that means that now I rely on scientists the whole time, being able to have some common ground with them and understand how they work has been invaluable.

On photographing urban wildlife

I thought I’d drawn the short straw because I was assigned with urban wildlife, wildlife in our cities whereas my mentor on the project, Alex Mustard, underwater photographer, he was diving with seals off the coast of Devon and Andy Rouse was getting to sneak up on wild boar in the Forest of Dean and Pete Cairns was getting to photograph diving ospreys in the Highland of Scotland, and I thought I was stuck with pigeons and rats.

I remember on this gloomy morning, going to this concrete tower block in the middle of the city and thinking, “What am I doing?” And then looking up and seeing two peregrines over my head do a prey pass in mid air, and I suddenly went, “Ah. I might be on to something here. This is really, really cool.” I can be ten minutes away from anywhere and right in the middle of London, and there’s an epic wildlife encounter to be had. It was pretty special.

When wildlife’s in cities it has to be, to an extent, more habituated to people. Often you can have these crazy close encounters. I’ve had close encounters with raccoons in Canada when they’ve been in the city or foxes in London. When those animals are habituated that’s really cool, because you don’t really need to sneak up on them. They know that you’re there and they just do their thing.

On shooting stills and motion

You know a lot of people now think, “Oh, I can go on an assignment and shoot video and stills.” You can, to an extent, but one of them has got to be your main focus. I think if you’re making a film, trying to do stills on top of that is so difficult. The one that you’re not focusing on is always going to suffer. With wildlife, particularly, you spend 2 months on a project, let’s say, and you have that one moment, “Oh, do I shoot video, do I shoot stills?” You just end up cocking up both.

On growing up in the digital era

Younger generations at the moment are way more tuned into being environmentally aware than perhaps generations have been in the past and I think that’s down to the connectivity of the world and social media.