The Role of Photography in Saving Wild Animals

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I am an art student graduating with a BA in graphic design and photography. A driving theme of my art is to use photographs of endangered wildlife species that evoke emotions in the viewer that will cause them to empathize and relate to these animals to the extent that inspires action to protect them. The advent of climate change has exacerbated the susceptibility of wild animals to extinction because of the deteriorating ecological conditions[1]. Precedence shows that photography as a practice can play an essential role in helping curb the predicaments of the disappearance of world animals[2]. In general, photography as a practice is a means through which pictures and narratives can communicate specific aspects that the photographer intends to pass across to the audience[3].

            Whereas most photographers focus on taking pictures of the wild animals while in their ecological systems, the work I'm preoccupied with, concentrates entirely on aesthetic aspects. That work entails capturing the beauty of animals while in their natural realm. Although this work of taking the photos of wild animals to draw out emotions is important, it has not necessarily contributed to efforts to redress the real and imminent threats to the survival of these same animals. The fundamental concept that underpins my work is the need to elicit emotional connections between the viewer and the subject matter as it is a crucial and necessary step towards inspiring action and not mere admiration for the beauty that the animals possess.

Artist Influences

            The people who have positively influenced my artistic work are Tim Flach, Joel Sartore, and David Doubilet. All the three are photographers whose work primarily focuses on preserving endangered wildlife. Tim Flach has made significant contributions in the efforts to protect wild animals. Tim Flach in his book titled “Endangered,” managed to document a couple of appealing images of the various types of species which are at risk.[4]

            Tim Flach uses his camera as a means to an end. Flach has successfully managed to capture the emotions and character of the animals with his camera. Up to this time, his interest has been the manner in which contribute to shaping animals. Furthermore, Flach uses his book Endangered to raise the concern of what the animals mean to humans and also what their possible disappearance may mean to human beings.

            Flach is also unique in his photography because he name-checks all his photographic idols such as Guy Bourdin or Irving Penn as well as Picasso. Whereas other photographers focus on the technical circumstances surrounding the picture, Flach considers understanding the protagonists and picture as the most important thing.

            David Doublet is famous and different in his artistic work because of the reputation of being an underwater photographer. The intense passion he has for underground photography has earned his work a place in the National Geographic Magazine as he is a contributing photographer. The idea of taking photos inside water distinguishes David Doublet from other photographers of wild animals. The drive to protect the environment inspires Doublet’s passion to take pictures of animals under the water bodies. Furthermore, Doublet has the passion for the images of aquatic animals because of the desire to come up with the image that would make people fall in love with the sea and also protect it all time.

            Joel is different from other people who do the similar job of safeguarding mother nature through mitigating the effect of wildlife extinction because he has majorly focused on featuring on various platforms and books such as Newsweek, GEO, and Audubon Magazine among many more. The recognition he has earned in these platforms have earned him the title of the “modern-day Noah,” a biblical reference to Noah who saved all humanity and wildlife from becoming extinct from the dangers posed by the massive floods and rains that pounded the earth for a very long time.


            Photographs often serve as a means of intentionally eliciting emotion. Unlike most of the times when photographers have used photos only to convey the beauty of the wild animals, the images can serve as instruments for showing concern about the safety of the animals by coming up with pictures that are realistically depicting emotions of the animals in unsafe conditions within their habitat.

            The focus is a very pertinent element while shooting a photo. Just like human beings, animals also have their ways of expressing emotions of satisfaction and dissatisfaction. It may not be apparent to most of the audience. Nevertheless, a good photograph has the compelling ability to make the viewers empathize, react, and feel the need for urgency. Consequently, powerful images that trigger urgency will automatically make individuals and the society rethink ways to remedy deplorable conditions that wild animals live in their ecological systems. Since human beings only value what they feel passionate about, it is one of the approaches that photography should practice. Once photographers can create an emotional attachment to nature, then all human efforts will be aiming at saving the precious environment.

            Photographs can give narratives just like other forms of communications. The image captured is a “Talking photo” literally talking to the viewer. For instance, penguins embedded in their natural niche of ice and are playing wildly, rubbing each other, will inevitably narrate their joy by capturing the happy mood.

            After every photograph, it is essential to have a caption of the wild animal with a message to the audience about the facts that make the captured animal and the factors that make it a subject to protection. It will make the audience have an emotional attachment to the animal and thus see the need to help the animal.

Location within Artistic Timeline

            Photographs of wild animals and the need to protect such creatures fall in the timeliness of the contemporary art which narrows down to environmental art that is also known as eco-art. It is in this particular field of photography where technique aims at calling for action to save the wild animals that face diverse factors, hence, making them very vulnerable in the modern environment.[5]

Eco-art tries to urge the responsible parties to come together and help shed light on ways that will give a blueprint for offering a sustainable approach to salvage the already endangered animals from reeling ecological adversities. Furthermore, Eco-art is also interested in negotiating an amicable solution for all the human beings to appreciate the existence of the wild animals and their beauty of the natural environment in which they occupy. Eco art being a project that commenced in Italy in 2009 as a cultural platform for the international community draw the attention of people to their surrounding with the aid of the creative energy of artists. The project works both for online and off-line projects through the exhibition of photos and other selected works. Thus, my work of taking photos of wildlife would fit into the concept of exhibition of some selected works.

My Artistic Practice

            Photography as an artistic practice creative element. One of these aspects, includes one’s feelings is a compelling spectacle that is interpreting the natural world of the animals. A critical observation of the wild animals will communicate real emotions of the wild animals in the pictures hence creating a natural bond with the animal.[6]

With regards to evoking emotions through the use of photographs, this particular practice is not only concerned with documenting the beauty of wild animals in the photos but with spurring action towards saving wild animals. The intention of the pictures is to further evoke an emotional pictorial appeal and use photo to show to the audience who maybe willing to put up measures to improve the conditions of wildlife. The different works of photography that have also contributed to the same subject have not been very keen on making the audience have a second thought about a possible panacea for the problem at hand. The need to inspire wild animals have a future gives me motivation that I require to assist the animals stay safe from the perils facing them.


            Photography becomes a vital tool in helping to protect wild animals that are facing a significant threat of becoming extinct.  Pictures are a critical source of documenting the prevailing conditions of the wild animals and the dangers that they encounter within their habitats. My preference for wild animals instead of forests emanated from the realization that animals are at a higher risk of extinction than the plants or forest species. Therefore, taking and documenting photographs that evoke strong emotions in humans helps in drawing their attention to the problems and dangers that wild animals face and the possible solutions that can help mitigate the problem.


Anderson, P. 2009. Pictorial Photography: Its Principles and Practice. New York: General           Books.

Gablik, S. 1992. The Reenchantment of Art. New York: Thames and Hudson.

James, H. 2017. Blue Planet. London: Ebury Publishing.

Matilsky, B. 1992. Fragile Ecologies: Contemporary Artists Interpretations and Solutions. New           York, Rizolli International Publications Inc.

Tim Flach & Jonathan Baillie. 2017. Endangered. New York: Abrahams.

            [1] Matilsky, B. 1992. Fragile Ecologies: Contemporary Artists Interpretations and Solutions. New York, Rizolli International Publications Inc

            [2] James, H. 2017. Blue Planet. London: Ebury Publishing.

            [3] Gablik, S. 1992. The Reenchantment of Art. New York: Thames and Hudson.

            [4] Tim Flach & Jonathan Baillie. 2017. Endangered. New York: Abrahams .

            [5] Gablik, S. 1992. The Reenchantment of Art. New York: Thames and Hudson.

            [6] Anderson, P. 2009. Pictorial Photography: It's Principles and Practice. New York : General Books.

August 01, 2023




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