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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SELECT QUOTES

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.”

Annie-Griffiths-Belt-Web-headshot“In a creative field you need inspiration and you need comfort and you need humor. You need to not take yourself so seriously. And move that focus to the work. That’s when stuff happens.”

Annie Griffiths is a photographer with a mission – some might say many missions.

She is a true trail blazer, refusing to be bound by convention and unafraid to push for what she believes is possible and right. Annie was one of the first female photographers with National Geographic, and managed to balance the demands of assignments that would span two or three months with motherhood, bravely taking her two children, Lily and Charlie, with her to the remote corners of the earth. Their presence opened doors for Annie in cultures in which other mothers welcomed her, and demonstrated that women did not need to relinquish their chance at a successful career to become mothers.

Annie has photographed in over 150 countries and has seen the good, the bad and the ugly in the human condition. But where others may see only problems and challenges Annie sees opportunity. Angry at the role the media was playing in portraying disenfranchised women and girls around the world as vulnerable and weak, Annie decided to tell a different story, and founded Ripple Effect Images to cover under-reported issues that impact women and girls. She assembled a team of some of the best photographers to help her, and Ripple Effect is going from strength to strength in helping to scale solutions for women and girls globally. Annie is also a Senior Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers.

Annie’s exuberant personality and positive outlook shine through in her vibrant images and stories that paint women and girls around the world as strong, resilient and bursting with hope.

RIPPLE EFFECT INSTAGRAM FEED FEATURING THE WORK OF ANNIE GRIFFITHS, LYNN JOHNSON, AMI VITALE, JOANNA PINNEO AND JOHN STANMEYER 

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SELECT QUOTES FROM PODCAST

On finding your path

“When you get your internship, when you look for your job, make sure you are surrounded by people who are better than you. The last thing you want is to be the best photographer at the place, because it will make it much more difficult to grow.”

“There isn’t a clear path. No-one to fix it for you. Your expectations should be high of yourself, but not of the world and the path that should lay before you.”

“Don’t be competitive. I’ve seen it trip people up all the time. I see them lose focus on their work, because they’re looking over their shoulder. It’s like being at a cocktail party with someone you’re trying to have a conversation with and they’re constantly looking over your shoulder.”

“You grow up and realize that the only people looking at your byline are your parents and that it’s the work that’s important.”

“Attorneys don’t start out at the supreme court. For some reason with photography there can be an unrealistic focus on the goal and not the path. And the path is really important. And it humbles and it informs, and sometimes it takes you in a completely different direction than you had planned.”

“In a creative field you need inspiration and you need comfort and you need humor. You need to not take yourself so seriously. And move that focus to the work. That’s when stuff happens.”

On self doubt and humility

“One of the things many photographers struggle with is self doubt. There’s a perception that we’re all just totally confident in what we’re doing, and it’s just not true.”

“You get [to these remote communities] and people have never heard of National Geographic or Photographer of the Year, and they are just being kind to a stranger. It’s another thing my mom taught me: People who have nothing give everything. And it’s true.”

“There are celebrity cardiologists and celebrity businessmen. In each profession there are people that lead. And what matters is not them, it’s the work that they do. So I’ve always wanted my work to be useful as well as beautiful.”

Advice to her 20-year old self

“I would tell myself not to be so hard on myself, and not to worry about silly things like style and reputation and the kind of lala land stuff. If you want to be a photojournalist you need to count on your curiosity and your skills, and be proactive about moving stories forward not just yourself forward.”

“Be kind, treat people well, do your job to the best of your ability, set lofty goals and work your way towards them, but don’t think you’re going to start with your lofty goals.”