The Photo Ark Project

Joel Sartore is a photographer for the National Geographic. So far, he’s captured over 6,000 animals in captivity on camera and he’s not anywhere close to done. He’s visited over 40 countries to capture these stunning photos, with animals of all kinds. These photographs have all been for something called: the Photo Ark Project.

What is it?

The Photo Ark Project is Sartore’s effort to photograph every species of an animal held in captivity over his lifetime. This includes thousands of species, but in ten years, he’s made a good start. After reading an article about the danger many amphibians are in for becoming extinct, Sartore felt motivated to bring awareness to the issue of drastically declining biodiversity.


Since his wife’s recovery, Sartore has traveled to zoos and sanctuaries all over the world to take pictures of animals, some of which can no longer be found in the wilderness. He puts the animal in a studio setting, either in a box, for the smaller animals, or an enclosure, for the larger animals. Each studio area is draped with black velvet, to bring out the animals’ in an effort to more closely capture their attributes and expressions. No matter how small the animals, even if it’s a frog the size of a fingernail, it gets the same treatment and attention as the larger animals. In the photos, you can’t tell how large or small each animal is.

How did it start?


Joel Sartore began the Photo Ark project in 2006. He had always traveled to faraway countries for work, but when his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, he needed to stay at home. Sartore was concerned because being at home meant he couldn’t travel to do his job, which would result in not getting paid. On a whim, he called his friend, John Chapo, the president and CEO of Lincoln’s Children Zoo. Chapo allowed him to come down to the zoo and gave him a naked mole rat to take pictures of for work. That funny looking creature would become the first animal photographed for the Photo Ark Project.


Thousands (possibly millions, depending on some estimates) of animals could go extinct by the end of the century. While some people are incredibly concerned about this issue, it’s not enough. More people need to be interested in more animals. The larger animals get a lot of attention, which is great because many are no longer endangered, but smaller animals are important too for biodiversity. Sartore aims to do all he can to lower these numbers with his stunning and intimate photos of the animals.


Each animal has a beautiful photograph that seeks to connect the viewer to it. Sartore hopes that this emotion will encourage people to patronize their local zoos and help more with the conservation of wildlife and their environments. The best way to combat the extinction of these animals is through more awareness.






If you’d like to look at Joel Sartore’s website or are interested in making a donation, click here or here.