Posts tagged ‘advocacy’

The Captive Project, by Gaston Lacombe

Sea turtle in aquarium window

When I presented my project on rewilding at the recent San Diego NANPA Summit, it was a Lightning Talk, so I only had six minutes to address the audience. I did not have time to explain a bit more about why I started a photo project about releasing animals back into the wild. It stems in part from spending years working on another project, which deals with less fortunate animals living in captivity. After photographing animals who had lost all freedom, I felt the need to experience animals returning to nature. But still, the project I call “Captive” is a quest I feel passionate about, especially as I have seen my photos play an integral role in the current public discourse over reforming and rethinking zoos.

Burrowing Owl in cage

Since 2009, through “Captive,” I have been taking a critical look at the living conditions of animals in zoos all around the world. At the moment, I have gathered photos from about 60 zoos (I have lost count), in 11 countries, on 5 continents, and I keep adding to the collection whenever I get the chance. The main goal is to invite the viewer to reflect on what happens when we use animals as objects of display and entertainment. It’s something that we often forget when visiting zoos. We get distracted by the cuteness, the fuzziness, or the search for the elusive hidden animal, and we fail to stop and take a look at the habitat in which we keep these beings for our pleasure. Human vision is selective, so freezing a scene through photography allows the viewer to notice things in these animal enclosures that we would usually glance over.


No matter if I am visiting some of the “best” zoos in the world, or rusty old road-side attractions, and no matter if I am in the so-called developed world, or in developing countries, I always find animals living in deplorable conditions. Everywhere, cement enclosures are the norm, with little or no access to vegetation, fresh water or even daylight. Most animals never see any signs of nature unless it is through the idyllic scenes painted on the walls. Recently, many zoos have added conservation, preservation and education to their missions, which I applaud. But still, these are the rare exceptions, and quality of life is still something that eludes the vast majority of captive animals worldwide.

Tiger in zoo enclosure

I’ve been very fortunate to see this series take off and get noticed by a wide public. It has lead to 28 legitimate publications (and many more illegitimate ones), TV appearances, as well as a few exhibits. My high point up to now has been seeing one of my photos being used as a rallying call to save a highly distressed polar bear in Mendoza, Argentina. There also have been talks of creating a book from my “Captive” series, but I still need to do a bit more work before that can happen.

Polar Bear in zoo enclosure

Currently, maybe because of a slight fatigue caused by the negativism often depicted in these images, I am hoping to supplement this series with a “Beyond Captive” addendum. It’s clear to me that zoos and aquariums will always exist. There is a demand for them, they make money, and like it or not, for many people, it’s the only exposure they will ever get to animals beyond the barnyard. So what can be the 21st century solution for captive animals? What are the innovative ways to reform and rethink zoos? These are questions I am interesting in exploring, and using my camera to find answers. I feel that conservation photography at its best is not just about exposing the problems, but also seeking and documenting solutions that can better the situation.

Cotton-top Tamatin

I am currently looking for funding and support to undertake this “Beyond Captive” project. If you have ideas or suggestions, feel free to contact me at Thank you!


Gaston Lacombe is a photographer based in Washington, D.C., specializing in documentary and conservation projects. Most of his work deals with the relationships between humans and animals, and humans and nature.

Gaston has worked on six continents, including a residency in Antarctica. His photos and articles have appeared in numerous publications in North America and Europe, and he is the recipient of multiple international photography prizes. His photos have been shown in galleries and museums in Europe, South America and North America, including at the Smithsonian Institute. He regularly lectures on photography, and on his projects, around the world.

Gaston is also the Communications Coordinator for the International League of Conservation Photographers, where he helps coordinate conservation expeditions with some of the world’s top photographers.




PHOTOGRAPHER PROJECT: Mountaintop Removal – Story and photographs by Carl Galie

Eight billion gallons

Eight billion gallons

I thought I knew all there was to know about strip mining, since I grew up in coal country in a mining family and even spent some time selling truck parts to the mining industry early in my career. Then in 2009, I was invited by members of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and St. Vincent’s Mission to go on a tour of a mountaintop removal (MTR) site in Floyd County, Kentucky, with a group of students from Berea College. I was not prepared for what I saw that morning.

Yes, it was a strip mine. But it was a strip mine on steroids. It went on for miles. At the end of the tour, I was asked by Sister Kathleen Weigand from St Vincent’s Mission if I would consider doing a book on MTR, and I immediately said yes.

New River 1

New River 1

Approximately 500 mountains and more than 2,000 miles of streams already had been destroyed by MTR throughout the southern Appalachians. My research revealed that MTR was not an isolated problem in Kentucky. It had affected all of coal country. Furthermore, legislation passed to accommodate the coal industry had the potential to affect water quality across the United States, making MTR a national problem.

A number of scientific papers were published in 2009 on the impact MTR was having on the waters of Appalachia and public health. President Obama had just taken office, and I expected that the EPA would finally be allowed to do its job and put an end to this mining practice. I was wrong, and six years later, MTR is still going strong.

Since the purpose of my project was to raise awareness and educate the public about MTR, I decided that a book—added to several books and powerful documentaries I knew were already in production—might not be the best way for me to get the story out. I decided to take my project in a slightly different direction: a fine art exhibit that would focus on the beauty of the region and what could be lost.

I reasoned that a traveling art exhibit could reach a different and broader audience and have a better chance to be viewed—not only by those against MTR, but also by those supportive of the mining industry. I partnered with Appalachian Voices and The New River Conservancy, two organizations working to protect the region, and with SouthWings—an NGO (nongovernmental organization) located in Asheville, North Carolina, which provided my flights. Funding for the exhibit came from grants provided by Art for Conservation and The Blessings Project Foundation.

Lost on the road to oblivion

Lost on the road to oblivion

In 2013, the exhibit, “Lost on the Road to Oblivion, the Vanishing Beauty of Coal Country,”opened at the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts at Appalachian State University. I collaborated with then-poet laureate of North Carolina, Joseph Bathanti, and the exhibit included 13 of Joseph’s poems in addition to 59 of my prints.

Joseph’s and my collaboration continues, and he has agreed to write poems about more of the prints in the exhibit. We are currently working on exhibit scheduling for 2015-2016. Oh, and remember the book that got the project going? We’re revisiting that idea as well.

Carl Galie is a North Carolina photographer who has worked on conservation issues for the past 19 years. Carl was awarded the first Art for Conservation Grant in August 2010 for his project “Lost on the Road to Oblivion, The Vanishing Beauty of Coal Country.” In March 2014, Carl received Wild South’s Roosevelt-Ashe conservation award for journalism for his work documenting mountaintop removal of coal in the Appalachians.

More on Drones, by Bernie Friel

“Drones,” my article on the commercial use of drones for photography, appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of Currents. While at that time it seemed clear that such use was prohibited under existing FAA Advisory Circulars and Policy Statements, a recent decision (March 6, 2014) by an administrative law judge with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) ruled that the FAA had not undertaken the required steps to give legal effect to those circulars and statements. Thus, at the moment there is no federal law, regulation, policy or circular prohibiting the use of drones.

The March decision involved a $10,000 fine imposed by the FAA on photographer Raphael Pirker who used a drone to film a commercial at the University of Virginia. While the FAA has repeatedly claimed that flying a drone for commercial purposes is illegal, this was the first and only time the agency had attempted to impose a fine.

For the moment, at least, there appears to be no prohibition on the commercial use of drones for any purpose, including, as one commentator noted, for “beer deliveries”—at least under federal law. But before you begin sending your drones skyward to indulge in a commercial or noncommercial photographic undertaking, be sure you check state and local laws. Many state legislatures and local governments have been considering laws to restrict their use, and some laws may already be in effect.

It is unclear just what the FAA will do next, but it is likely to appeal or establish an emergency rule to prohibit commercial use of drones until it can develop appropriate regulations covering such use as it has been directed to prepare by Congress.

Bernard Friel is a charter member and past president of NANPA who also served on the board of the NANPA Foundation. A retired lawyer, Bernie has been a serious nature photographer for more than 50 years.

PHOTOGRAPHER PROJECT: For Every Fallen Wolf by Weldon Lee

(Canis lupus) captive animal; Kalispell, Montana (c) Weldon Lee

(Canis lupus) captive animal; Kalispell, Montana (c) Weldon Lee

Story and photograph by Weldon Lee

Prejudice is not limited to religion and racial ethnicity. It also finds targets among our wild brothers and sisters, not the least being the gray wolf. Wolf eradication can be traced back to the Middle Ages in Europe. It’s not surprising that it lifted its ugly head again as Europeans began arriving in the New World.

According to PBS, “By the middle of the twentieth century, government-sponsored extermination had wiped out nearly all gray wolves in the Lower 48 states. Only a small population remained in northeastern Minnesota and Michigan.” This came about as a result of wealthy livestock owners wielding their influence over policymakers in Washington, D.C., and demanding a wider grazing range.

In spite of Congress providing protection for wolves under the Endangered Species Act in 1973, wolves are still being killed.

The endangered species protection for gray wolves was repealed in six states. What followed over the last two years was the killing of more than 2,600 wolves. Now the government wants to delist gray wolves in practically the entire Lower 48. Read the rest of this entry »

NANPA VOLUNTEER: Richard Halperin

halperin-portraitNANPA’s executive director Susan Day says NANPA would not be as successful without Richard Halperin’s professional leadership and sharp legal mind. “He is a consultant at NANPA and NANPA Foundation board meetings,” says Susan. “Richard shares his editing and public speaking skills for NANPA’s benefit, and he spends countless hours on committees. He is an advocate for professional nature photographers and NANPA’s liaison with the photo industry on litigation (ASMP, PACA, PPA).” Here’s the eNews interview with Richard Halperin.

What is your “day job?”

I’m a partner in a New York law firm. My practice mostly involves tax law, including a lot of cross-border issues, estate planning, intellectual property and art law.

What committees have you served on, when, and what positions have you assumed?

I’ve been on the Finance Committee and the Executive Committee and now serve as chair of the Nominations Committee. I’ve served as a board member, as treasurer and as president. Read the rest of this entry »

PHOTOGRAPHER PROJECTS: Citizen Science and the Bio Blitz Concept

ATB_1012 copy

Bio Blitzes appeal to citizen scientists of all ages

Story and Photographs by Kevin Fitz Patrick

I remember coming to my first NANPA Summit in Corpus Christi and being overwhelmed by the Art Wolfes and the Robert Ketchums. Although I had been a nature photographer for more than 25 years, I had been working in a small part of the Appalachians most of the time. I had not been to Africa or South America. I hadn’t even been outside North Carolina, so how could I say I was a real nature photographer? Then I met Susan and Richard Day, nature photographers from Illinois who, at the time, shot mostly on a 63-acre property. It was then I realized that it was not about how much of the world you covered but how much you loved the place you photographed. I remember Susan telling me that it was about your niche. Finally, as I start my 70th year—my 46th as a photographer—I can name my niche!

I am a conservation and Bio Blitz photographer. The All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) is an attempt to document and identify all biological species living in a defined area. The effort in the Smokies has become the prototype for species inventories worldwide and has inspired the Bio Blitz; 24-hour species inventories conducted by professional scientists in collaboration with public volunteers. The volunteers can include school children, their instructors, families and even their grandparents. Read the rest of this entry »

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