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Make a Change: Using Photography as a Tool to Raise Awareness

polar bear and cubs standing at the edge of melting ice on the arctic

Our world is changing and so should we. It’s getting harder and harder for species to grow and continue their legacies, and us humans are often the cause behind these challenges. Pollution and relentless hunting, our contribution to global warming - it all ends up in the loss of food, habitats and, eventually, life. Many magnificent creatures are all critically endangered, facing an extremely high risk of extinction as we speak.

As an adventurous wildlife photographer, I have been travelling in extreme conditions to the most remote places on earth for more than a decade, capturing images of rarely-viewed animals in their natural habitats. I believe that a unique perspective can actualize any vision, making photography an incredible tool to raise awareness for pressing environmental issues.

My photographs get great exposure worldwide, millions of views and frequent appearances in the media (BBC, PBS, National Geographic, and more). I also like to share my passion with tens of thousands of photography lovers at the establishments I founded in Israel, and in photography conferences and environmental events all over the world.

Finding my lifelong mission as a photographer

I must admit that raising awareness on environmental issues was not my objective when I first became a photographer. Far from it, in fact. Like many people, “global warming” and wildlife disappearance were big words that I used to hear about in newspapers and TV. At that time, they didn’t feel like real issues to me.

They were far too distant from my everyday life.

But after spending so much time out in the field as I have, I realized that this is really happening. I can see it with my own eyes on every expedition, and I am able to document it with my camera. Once I experienced it firsthand I knew I had to do something about it. It became much more than just “taking nice photos.”

Nowadays, I have made it a lifelong mission to use photography as a tool to raise awareness about the devastating effects of climate change. I aim to take pictures never seen before, so people can’t help but acknowledge what’s going on and start a conversation about the subject.

My work is focused on capturing endangered wildlife in remote places. I travel in extreme conditions to the remotest places on Earth, capturing images of rarely viewed animals in their natural habitats. These animals are usually the ones that suffer the most because of climate change - and also the ones whose voices are never heard.

In my images I try to show them in a “human-like” approach, in hopes of getting people to fall in love with them as I did. Maybe then we will be able to raise awareness about their situation, and collectively push for the necessary changes.

close-up portrait of gorilla surrounded by vegetation

Capturing photos that make an impact

During my career, I have taken several photos that have gotten millions of views and made an impression on people all over the world. There are even more that have left their mark on me. Some of them show compassionate behavior or a family bond, while others show nature in its rawest form.

One of these images is actually a world first, and that’s the photo of a polar bear catching a ringed seal through its breathing hole. I travel to Svalbard, in the high Arctic, several times a year to photograph polar bears in their natural habitat. In one of these expeditions I made it my goal to capture this moment, which had never been photographed before.

I worked hard to get this image, with many hours of kneeling still in the snow, waiting patiently. Any small movement would condense the snow and transmit the sound through the ice and through the water. Hearing this noise, the seal would move to a different breathing hole. If this happened I would miss my shot and, more importantly, the mother and her cubs wouldn’t be able to eat after months of starvation. You could imagine my excitement when I finally saw this happening right in front of my eyes.

polar bear hunting seal through ice breathing hole

Bringing the stories closer to people

For me, photography plays a huge role in solving environmental issues. “What you see is what you get,” as the old saying goes. I believe photography is the best tool to convey a story and share a vision. You could write all the words you want, describing in great detail the story of the wildlife and nature changing. But an image that makes people understand and relate is much more direct and powerful.

However, capturing these images isn’t enough.

The next step is taking it to as many viewers as possible. Here, I’m fortunate enough to be assigned as a GreenPeace global ambassador to the Arctic in order to share the alarming story of the melting Arctic. Many TV channels and magazines have covered my work on this initiative and of course, each and every one is a part of this global effort to spread the news.

In recent years, social media has taken the power from the traditional channels, allowing us as photographers to reach our ever-growing audience. Every single one of us can be a pivot point in sharing the images and their corresponding messages.

aerial view of wild bear surrounded by red fish on river

Choosing the next adventure

Selecting the expeditions and stories that I work on is basically a process of estimation and strategy. I wish I could go and capture every single story on my ever-growing list. I usually start by doing some online research about are the most urgent stories that are untold, or at least not told enough. After that, my team and I look at the logistics behind each of them and which ones are possible. These are the ones that I try to go through with.

Despite all my years of hard work and travels around the world, there are so many scenes that I’m still dreaming about. One of them is a project I hope to do someday with the Siberian tiger.

The most important factor is to never stop trying. Go out there and photograph, share these stories online and get as many people exposed and involved as possible.

adult leopard and leopard cubs at sunset

Want to make a change? Create a photography website with Wix and share your work with the world!

All photos by the author. Roie Galitz is one of Israel’s leading figures in the field of photography. His work has been presented in local and international exhibitions, featured in exclusive magazines, and honored with many international awards over the years. See more of his work on his Wix website.

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