Portrait photography is a specialist field, often finding focus on the famous, infamous and enigmatically anonymous. It’s a field that rarely turns its attentions to animals. But this is exactly what photographer, speaker and long-time contributor to National Geographic, Joel Sartore, has been doing for much of his professional life: taking portraits of the world’s animals, especially those that are endangered. The resulting body of work — which has been documented in the magazine’s pages and featured in an on-going online campaign — is now collected in a glossy photography book: a bright, bold message for us to get to know our planet’s animals, and to save them.
The beautiful beginnings of what’s been dubbed the Photo Ark, 6,000 animal portraits have been taken so far: a lifelong project for Sartore, who intends to take a portrait of every animal in captivity in the world. His ultimate aim is to create studio portraits of 12,000 species while travelling the globe, visiting zoos and wildlife rescue centres. His emphasis is on animals facing extinction, with standout images including a gorgeously coy-looking Florida panther named Lucy at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, and an endearingly orderly row of critically endangered ploughshare tortoises, confiscated by a zoo in Atlanta after being stolen; cute: yes, but also full of wild character.
In keeping with classic portraiture, the images are disarmingly distinct from most wildlife photographers, with each animal posed against either a white or black background, accompanied by sobering words from veteran wildlife writer Douglas Chadwick, and a splashy intro from Harrison Ford. Sensitive, revealing, and at times utterly mesmerising, this may be portraiture at its most powerful.
The Photo Ark by Joel Sartore, is published by National Geographic. RRP: $35 (£28)
Top three: Wise words
The Raqqa Diaries, written under a pseudonym by a freedom fighter and translated by Nader Ibrahim, is an incredibly unflinching eyewitness account of the brutal reality of life inside Syria under the ‘Islamic State’. RRP: £9.99 (Hutchinson)
The Royal Geographical Society holds its annual summer garden party at its London HQ (23 June) followed by Planet Earth II Revealed (5 July), at which the hit BBC series’ producers reveal fascinating behind the scenes stories.
As the Trump administration looks to find $1bn (£0.8bn) to fortify a 62-mile stretch of the 2,000-mile Mexico/US border, tune in to BBC Seriously’s recent La Frontera episode, assessing the history of the borderlands.
The great outdoors
750 places for outdoor adventures, from lost ruins to tiny glens. RRP: £16.99 (Wild Publishing)
Wild Pub Walks
Hill walks in the Peaks, Lakes and Highlands, with a pub chosen by the Campaign For Real Ale. RRP: £11.99 (CAMRA Books)
Camping By The Waterside
Campsites in the UK and Ireland; ideal for swimmers, kayakers, anglers and kids. RRP: £14.99 (Bloomsbury)
The Wild Other
An accident shatters an idyllic childhood, and a peripatetic life ensues in this memoir by Clover Stroud. RRP: £20.00 (Hodder & Stoughton)
Published in the June 2017 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)