Meet a Trav­eler p. 112

Q&A WITH PHO­TOG­RA­PHER ART WOLFE

Lonely Planet Magazine (US) - - Contents -

Pho­tog­ra­pher and con­ser­va­tion­ist Art Wolfe re­flects on a half-cen­tury spent chron­i­cling our beau­ti­ful planet Earth.

FROM THE REST­LESS DUNES OF NAMIBIA

TO THE FROZEN MAJESTY OF ALASKA, PHO­TOG­RA­PHER ART WOLFE HAS CAP­TURED THE NAT­U­RAL BEAUTY OF OUR PLANET ON CAM­ERA IN A CA­REER SPAN­NING FIVE DECADES. WE TALKED WITH WOLFE ABOUT TRAVEL,

HIS CRAFT AND HOW IMAGES LIKE HIS CAN

PLAY A SIG­NIF­I­CANT ROLE IN PRO­TECT­ING THE WORLD’S MOST FRAG­ILE EN­VI­RON­MENTS.

What is your first travel-re­lated mem­ory?

Grow­ing up in the Pacific North­west, I camped a lot with my fam­ily. I adored the Na­son Creek Camp­ground in Wash­ing­ton’s Okanogan-We­natchee Na­tional For­est. I loved the sound of the river at night, and, as a young kid, the sound of the train chug­ging through the moun­tains. This is what got me started, and as I got older I spent as much time as I could climb­ing and back­pack­ing in the Wash­ing­ton wilder­ness.

What in­spired you to be­come a pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher?

When I started my stud­ies at the Univer­sity of Wash­ing­ton art depart­ment, I ini­tially thought I would be a fine art painter with an easel and can­vas, and per­haps an art teacher on the side as well. At that time in the 1970s, pho­tog­ra­phy was not con­sid­ered “art” and classes were off lim­its to all but jour­nal­ism ma­jors. But as peo­ple go, I am very im­pa­tient. I like to work fast and I like quick re­sults. I even painted with wa­ter­col­ors sim­ply be­cause I didn’t like wait­ing for oil paints to dry. Since I did a lot of moun­tain climb­ing, I wasn’t able to carry my easel and paints up into the moun­tains with me, so I car­ried a cam­era to take pho­tos, which I would paint from later when I re­turned home. It wasn’t long be­fore my pho­tog­ra­phy was get­ting bet­ter and I re­al­ized the photo could be my fi­nal prod­uct. So I got my de­gree and switched gears.

De­fine “con­ser­va­tion pho­tog­ra­phy.”

It is the union of art and tech­nol­ogy used to ef­fect change and ed­u­cate and per­suade the viewer to be en­vi­ron­men­tally aware and to think about the world around them, from his/her front door and be­yond. The re­la­tion­ship of con­ser­va­tion and pho­tog­ra­phy got a big boost when the photo of Earth from the Apollo 17 space­craft was pub­lished in the early 1970s. This view of the planet, called

The Blue Mar­ble, be­came a ral­ly­ing cry for en­vi­ron­men­tal­ism. My pho­tos have been used to pro­tect the Alaskan Arc­tic, Cana­dian rivers and a myr­iad of other ar­eas. As a fel­low of the In­ter­na­tional League of Con­ser­va­tion Pho­tog­ra­phers, one of my goals is to show the beauty of Earth and the need for con­ser­va­tion.

Fa­vorite des­ti­na­tion?

Wow, there are so many: Hokkaido in Ja­pan in the win­ter, the shift­ing dunes of Namibia, South Ge­or­gia Is­land and its vast pen­guin colonies, Alaska’s Kat­mai Na­tional Park. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, though, my fa­vorite des­ti­na­tion is the one I’ve just re­turned from. I just get such a big charge out of trav­el­ing.

Do you have any travel habits or rit­u­als?

I pack well in ad­vance so I have time to ob­tain any nec­es­sary items, such as spe­cial­ized gear and pre­scrip­tions. I try to ac­cli­ma­tize and as soon as I hit the air­port I set my watch to the lo­cal time of my des­ti­na­tion. I travel with a French press and cof­fee; I gotta have it. And last but not least, ev­ery night on lo­ca­tion I edit that day’s photo shoot.

Quick, an as­teroid is go­ing to hit Earth! What is the one travel dream you’d rush to ful­fill?

So­co­tra, Ye­men. This one has been elud­ing me for years.

Art Wolfe on the south coast of Ice­land.

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