By Bill Dobbins
In this age in which the profession of a photographer is becoming more and more problematical, Art Wolfe continues to build upon an already legendary career. Both a photographer and conservationist, Wolfe is best known for color images of landscapes, wildlife, and native cultures.
“His photographs document scenes from every continent and hundreds of locations, and have been noted by environmental advocacy groups for their “stunning” visual impact. – Wolfe’s career has been described as “multi-faceted”, involving wildlife advocacy, art, journalism, and education. According to William Conway, former president of the Wildlife Conservation Society, Wolfe is a “prolific and sensitive recorder of a rapidly vanishing natural world.” In the last 30 years, the public has viewed Wolfe’s work in more than sixty published books, including Vanishing Act, The High Himalaya, Water: Worlds between Heaven & Earth, Tribes, Rainforests of the World, and The Art of Photographing Nature. -” Wikipedia
The son of commercial artists, Art Wolfe was born on September 13, 1951 in Seattle, Washington, and still calls the city home. He graduated from the University of Washington with Bachelor’s degrees in fine arts and art education in 1975, where he studied under professors such as Jacob Lawrence. His photography career has spanned five decades, a remarkable testament to the durability and demand for his images, his expertise, and his passionate advocacy for the environment and indigenous culture. During that time he has worked on every continent, in hundreds of locations, and on a dazzling array of projects.
“Art Wolfe is a virtuoso whose eye brings home, again and again, the absolute need to preserve what we have.”
Wolfe’s photographic mission is multi-faceted. By employing artistic and journalistic styles, he documents his subjects and educates the viewer. His unique approach to photography is based on his training in the arts and his love of the environment. His goal has always been to win support for conservation issues by “focusing on what’s beautiful on the Earth.” Hailed by William Conway, former president of the Wildlife Conservation Society, as “the most prolific and sensitive recorder of a rapidly vanishing natural world,” Wolfe has created millions of images in his lifetime and travels nearly nine months out of the year photographing for new projects, leading photographic tours and seminars, and giving inspirational presentations to corporate, educational, conservation, and spiritual groups.
“Art Wolfe’s brilliant and sensitive photographs, is a powerful stimulation for changing attitudes.”
Long before the genre of ‘conservation photography’ was conceived, Wolfe was practicing it. In 1997 he created a conservation-themed photography contest as “an event for the advancement of photography as a unique medium capable of bringing awareness and preservation to our environment through art.” The contest culminated in 2012 in which the International Conservation Photography Awards drew entries from around the world and was exhibited and traveled by The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle.
“Art Wolfe’s work tells a story that is overwhelming, breathtaking, and vast.”
In 1978 he published his first book Indian Baskets of the Northwest Coast with the late Dr. Allan Lobb, a close friend, and mentor, who also gave Wolfe a start by putting the young photographer’s work into patients’ rooms at Swedish Medical Center. Wolfe was soon photographing for the world’s top magazines such as National Geographic, Smithsonian, Audubon, GEO, and Terre Sauvage. Magazines all over the world publish his photographs and stories, and his work is licensed for retail products and advertising, as well as products such as USPS stamps, of which he has three.
The numerous US and international venues have featured monographs of his work as well his traveling exhibitions, Earth Is My Witness, Travels to the Edge, and Beyond the Lens. He has had four major exhibitions at Seattle’s Frye Art Museum, including One World, One Vision. Today his work is available online at www.artwolfe.com and at the Carnevale Gallery in Las Vegas.
“Art Wolfe is an artist. He works with all of the artistic elements . . . line, form, texture, composition, light
and shadow and produces visual masterpieces…”
Since 1988 he has published at least one book a year—1997 alone saw seven titles in the United States and abroad. He has released over 100 books in eight languages, including the popular titles The New Art of Photographing Nature and The Art of the Photograph, Vanishing Act, and award-winning titles Human Canvas, The High Himalaya, Water: Worlds between Heaven & Earth, Tribes, Rainforests of the World, Pacific Northwest – Land of Light and Water, as well as numerous children’s titles, including O is for Orca and Animal Action Alphabet. Graphis included his books Light on the Land and the controversial Migrations on its list of the 100 best books published in the 1990s.
In 2000 he formed Wildlands Press and subsequently published his signature work: The Living Wild, which has more than 70,000 copies in print worldwide and garnered awards from the National Outdoor Book Awards, Independent Publisher, Applied Arts and Graphis; Africa (2001) and Edge of the EarthCorner of the Sky (2003), both of which captured significant publishing awards, including IPPY (Independent Publishers), Benjamin Franklin (Publishers Marketing Association), and the National Outdoor Book Award.
In 2014 Wolfe began a publishing relationship with Earth Aware Editions. This has resulted in numerous award-winning books including the encyclopedic Earth Is My Witness, also published in German, French, and Italian language editions by National Geographic; an all-new edition of Migrations, and in 2018 the Nautilus Award-winning Trees: Between Earth and Heaven. 2019 will see the publication of Wild Elephants: Conservation in the Age of Extinction and the trade edition of Human Canvas.
“The intensity, texture, and strange density of Art Wolfe’s photographs are truly astonishing.”
Wolfe has ventured into the world of television production with On Location with Art Wolfe, Techniques of the Masters and as host of American Photo’s Safari, which aired on ESPN 1993-1995. In May 2007 Art made his public television debut with the high definition series Art Wolfe’s Travels to the Edge, an intimate and upbeat series that offers unique insights on nature, culture, and the realm of digital photography. The thirteen-episode first season garnered American Public Television’s 2007 Programming Excellence Award—unprecedented for a first season show. The thirteen-episode second season garnered five Silver Telly Awards, their highest honor, for outstanding achievement. It has been broadcast hundreds of thousands of times in the United States on PBS and CreateTV affiliates and in global syndication, and on Amazon Prime. Wolfe is the on-screen talent for two of the six episodes of Season I of Tales By Light, first airing in 2015 in Australia and New Zealand and now in distribution on Netflix. The show was produced by Canon Australia and National Geographic Channel in conjunction with Untitled Film Works.
“…we enjoy a grand tour of the world as only Art Wolfe can bring us. In a way, you could call Art the
ultimate tour guide.”
Education is a major component of Wolfe’s work, whether it is about the environment or about photography. He leads photographic tours worldwide as well as regularly giving the groundbreaking Photography as Art seminar. He has been a Phase One Digital Artists Series instructor and is collaborating with two of the most renowned nature photographers in the world, Frans Lanting and Thomas Mangelsen, on the Masters of Nature Photography workshops.
Wolfe is in demand as a keynote speaker around the world, giving talks. His presentations brim with humor and anecdotes. They deliver both an environmental message and the promise that following dreams with determination will lead to a well-lived life. He illustrates his presentations with inspiring, awarding-winning photography displaying an astonishing array of subjects, from intense wildlife images and landscapes to intimate views of cultures almost untouched by civilization.
“Art has the broadest range of excellence of any nature photographer I know.”
Along with his numerous book and television awards, Wolfe is the proud recipient of the Nature’s Best Photographer of the Year Award, the North American Nature Photography Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the Photographic Society of America’s Progress Medal for his contribution to the advancement of the art and science of photography; he has been awarded a coveted Alfred Eisenstaedt Magazine Photography Award. The National Audubon Society recognized Wolfe’s work in support of the national wildlife refuge system with its first-ever Rachel Carson Award. In 1999 he was named to the UW Alumni Association’s magazine list of 100 “most famous, fascinating and influential” alumni of the 20th century. He is the Honorary Chair of Washington Wild, a member of the American Society of Media Photographers; he is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, a Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers, a Member National of The Explorers Club, a Paul Harris Fellow of The Rotary Foundation, and has served on the advisory boards for the Wildlife Conservation Society. Wolfe has been a member of Canon’s elite list of renowned photographers Explorers of Light, Microsoft’s Icons of Imaging, Fujifilm’s Talent Team, and Nikon’s NPS Pros.
Wolfe maintains his office, stock agency, and production company in Seattle.
“It is in the wild places, where the edge of the earth meets the corners of the sky, the human spirit is fed.”
On the wing. Photo©Art Wolfe
ART WOLFE LINKS:
Tales by Light is now streaming on Netflix
LATEST BOOK: TREES: Between Heaven and Earth
MORE ART WOLFE BOOKS FROM AMAZON
Art Wolfe has both books Human Canvas and Wild Elephants available for preorder. All preorders are guaranteed signed copies
Bill Dobbins is a professional photographer, videographer and writer based in Los Angeles. His work has been exhibited as fine art in two museums, a number of galleries, and he has published eight books, including two fine art photo books:
The Women: Photographs of The Top Female Bodybuilders (Artisan)
Modern Amazons (Taschen)
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