Conservation Photography began its journey a long time ago, but was only officially recognised in 2005 as a niche category of photography and has gained much traction recently. While images have always been a powerful tool in conveying important messages, photographers are now actively aiming their lenses in directions that can stir up conversation as well as change regarding what is happening to our planet.

What is conservation photography?

This earth, our home, has been subject to much pain and destructive behaviour for many, many years. It is crucial that politicians, policy-makers, business leaders and the public are mobilised not only in raising awareness, but also in putting a stop to activities that are endangering what is left of the natural world surrounding us. Conservation photography combines the creation of images with story-telling and is often well supported with scientifically gripping facts to convey meanings aimed at encouraging the protection of flora, fauna and communities the world over. Some have described this process as giving the Earth a voice.

Vital to the drive behind conservation photography, is realising that an image’s true impact does not end once it has been taken. It’s journey only begins. Making a valuable contribution to conservation requires dedication to showcase images to appropriate audiences. Without this, images will simply fade into the background of the millions of pictures taken daily.

How to use photographs for change

Because visuals have the ability to break through language barriers, they present an incredible opportunity to touch a global audience. While there is currently no clear way of quantifying the actual impact of conservation photography, it still gets people talking and may, in time, lead to more conservation success stories. Multiple factors are involved in ensuring that an image reaches those who need to see it, and that it has the chance to make a worthwhile impression.

Caring about what you are sharing

For the photographer, it all starts with focusing on something they are passionate about, be this a landscape undergoing change, a threatened bird species, or a wider perspective of how land use affects a variety of animals. Some travel far and wide to capture the perfect image for the story they want to share, whilst others may find a subject in their hometown. Infusing passion fuels the feeling and significance of a visual.

Making it real

Because one of the core goals of conservation photography is to influence decision-makers, a picture needs to tell a story that goes beyond simply evoking emotion. It needs to be tied to facts, to be made tangible. To do this, it is key that photographers collaborate with scientists and organisations centred around conservation to craft a message that is rooted in evidence and research. This will make it less likely to be easily brushed off and ignored.

Getting people talking

Getting the public involved also plays a large role in the success of a conservation-focused image. Creating platforms for discussion and participation will grow the force behind the cause and can in turn put more pressure on those in high-places to start rethinking harmful policies and actions. Additionally, and importantly, this step makes space for communities affected by the unsustainable use of resources to voice their opinions and concerns, and become part of the process for finding an effective solution that takes all factors into account.

The Good Work Foundation

At The Good Work Foundation, they approach education with the vision of exposing learners to technology, training them in basic skills that will put them on an equal playing-field with other students in South Africa; not only this, but they also want to show their pupils what technology can make possible. Situated near the Kruger National Park, they have woven conservation into their curriculum, involving students in photography projects that may unlock some hidden talents and encourage the use of cameras for meaningful purposes.

For conservation efforts to be successful, stories need to be heard. Supporting photographers in their endeavours to protect the planet is one way in which you too can make a difference. Whether you donate funds or take part in public forums, your role will help in getting a message out there.