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Things that are about to disappear: photography as environmental conservation

Believe, Inspire

Cristina Mittermeier combines the aesthetic of natural photography with the conservation of ancient cultures and the environment.

Cristina Mittermeier is the founder of the International League of Conservationist Photography (iLCP), and is at the front of a modern movement to use photography with environmental purposes. Her work entails taking photographs of “things that are about to disappear”, with the purpose of, hopefully, changing the course of events. What she has achieved is no lesser feat.

Ten years ago she coined the term “Conservation photography” and realized there are hundreds of nature photographers who, like her, do not limit their work to the aesthetic experience, but they also use this means to make others aware of the dangers of degradation and oblivion. Among the many places she has been able to help is the NGO in the Flathead River, Canada, which stopped a project that wanted to demolish a mountain. She also helped to create a new protected are in Balandra Bay in La Paz, Mexico.

Her background as a marine biologist has helped Mittermeir become an essential agent of change. She now works with Paul Nicklen, a National Geographic photographer, and together they travel around the world throwing light on the shortcomings and risk that biodiversity and indigenous communities face. In an interview with MMN, she states:

There is only one thing we all need to do and that is to take personal responsibility. We are out of easy choices and from now on, every choice we make will be harder, because the impacts, both positive and negative are becoming more obvious. Every consumer choice, every political choice, every investment we make needs to be made with full information. Where does our food come from? What are the implications of choosing a political candidate? Is there a better choice I can make?

It is a lot of work and I understand that most people don’t want to bother with it, but at this stage of the game, it is the only attitude that can change the course of history.

Her photographs are stunning. They show the wholeness that reigns over traditional cultures, which are at the margin of modern problems that we are responsible for. Her characters, apparently, have a better idea of what fullness is and an eloquence that most of us still strive to achieve. Mittermeier, additionally, is a great public speaker, which has enabled her to save and protect endangered wild areas. She explains her work in her TED talk.

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