Meet a Traveler p. 112
Q&A WITH PHOTOGRAPHER ART WOLFE
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.
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.