Joel Sartore Photographs: On the Land

January 15 – March 9, 2008

As a National Geographic contributing photographer, Joel Sartore has traveled the world. His experiences with the internationally-renowned magazine have ranged from crossing the Alaskan wilderness to traipsing into the Amazon rainforest to walking the Nebraska Plains where he grew up. On the Land, comprised of photographs primarily taken from 2003 to 2005, documents some of these travels but yet has a deeper purpose. Committed to conservation, Sartore investigates and brings to light, through the immediacy of photography coupled with commentary and quotes, human relationship with the earth and questions our responsibility to it.

On the Land consists of 39 color photographs covering four regions in North and South America: Alaska’s North Slope; the Western states of Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico; the Patanal region of Brazil; and the Rocky Mountain Front and Great Plains. Sartore’s photographs of each region focus on potential or already set-in-order economic progression and the effect it can or is already having on the ecosystem – for good or bad. In Alaska’s North Slope, oil drilling threatens America’s largest wilderness. Poorly regulated gas drilling in Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico has decimated the landscape as well as threatened ground water for fish and well fields. In the Patanal region of southwest Brazil, great strides have been taken to preserve the land while also being economically viable through ecotourism. Currently intact, the Rocky Mountain Front faces a threat since it harbors natural gas reserves. Conversely, in the Great Plains, much of the tall grass prairie is now lost to farmland (although presently may be undergoing a reversal).

Striking images are compelling such as The Price of Gas, a photograph of a homeowner holding up a glass of water in her kitchen that, murky at best, is the result of a now unusable well. As the companion text states, “The well’s contents turned into a methane slurry after coal bed methane development began nearby.” It is hard not to be moved by these documentary images that are both disturbing and yet beautiful. The images are pointed, and the commentary and quotes by both Sartore and Lincoln author Dan Semrad are unabashed in their directness and speak to their passion for the environment.

A native Nebraskan, Joel Sartore has over 20 years of experience as a professional photographer. Primarily known for his 17-year relationship with the National Geographic Society, Sartore has also worked with Time, Life, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated as well as completed numerous book projects. In addition, his work has been the subject of national broadcasts including National Geographic’s Explorer series, the NBC Nightly News, NPR’s Weekend Edition, CBS Sunday Morning, and an hour-long PBS documentary. Awards include selection as a Distinguished Alumni at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications; First Place, Natural History Single at the 60th Annual Picture of the Year Competition; and Featured Photography for VISA Pour L’Image photography show, Perpignan, France. Sartore began his career in photography at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where, in 1985, he completed a degree in journalism. In 1990, he went on to become a photographer for The Wichita Eagle before beginning with National Geographic in 1990. Sartore resides in Lincoln with his family.