American wildlife photographer Joel Sartore is fighting to save endangered species by making us fall in love with them.
Joel Sartore had been a National Geographic wildlife photographer for 15 years when his wife, Kathy, was diagnosed with breast cancer. With three young children at home, he took a year off work to nurse her through radiation treatment and chemotherapy.
This pause from travelling the world to take photos gave him the chance to slow down and consider the impact of his work.
"Magazine stories come and go," he says.
"But I had not seen the plight of endangered species getting better so I thought about what I could do to actually make a difference?" . .
"I thought maybe if we do eye-contact, if we photograph animals where there are no distractions, all equal in size on black and white backgrounds, where a mouse is every bit as big and amazing as an elephant, then maybe we could get the public hooked into the plight of endangered species and extinction," he says.
Zoo staff co-operated by helping the photographer create sets, allocating him rooms which he could paint black or white and leaving food inside.
"Usually the animal thinks he's just coming in to get lunch, which he is, but he's also going to get his picture taken," says Sartore.
As the project grew, it caught the attention of editors at National Geographic, . .
He has now photographed more than 6,000 species in 40 countries. . . . portraits have made it on to National Geographic Magazine covers and have been projected on to buildings - the UN Building and Empire State Building in New York and the Vatican in Rome. . .
(One of his subjects has become extinct) "I try to talk about him every time I give public presentations because instead of getting depressed about him going extinct, I'm going to use his story to hopefully inspire others to care," he says. . .
. . there are only three of the (northern white rhino) species left, all living under armed-guard in Kenya. They are too old to breed, though a conservation project is attempting to create an embryo through IVF which would be implanted in the womb of a similar rhino species. . .
"At least 75-80% of the species that I've photographed could be saved from extinction, but people need to know they exist first and they need to fall in love with them and want to learn how they can help them," he says. . .
"It's in humanity's interest not to throw away all of creation - to keep things around so we have a healthy planet."
SEE ORIGINAL ARTICLE to view -- All photographs by Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark