Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to see some great photography presentations. NYU has been hosting two photo talks sponsored by NatGeo in February and March – both of which have captured my interest and awakened some new passions. NYU Skirball is a performing arts center, which holds a variety of several great events throughout the year. NYU faculty and students obviously receive discounts on their events. I don’t belong to neither but a friend of mine had heard about events scheduled by NatGeo and Canon, featuring top photographers.
A total of 4 presentations, the first two events have been eye-opening so far.
Canadian-born wildlife photographer Paul Nicklen presented on Arctic and Antarctic wildlife, which certainly filled a few educational holes. Having grown up in the remote Arctic called Baniff Island, Nicklen was indeed at an advantage when it came to surviving polar temperatures and knowing much about the nature up north. He started off as a biologist but then discovered his true calling as a photographer. The ability to be an activist and to change people’s attitudes towards preserving polar nature might have also played a huge role in changing his profession.
His presentation Spirit of the Wild was a great eye opener in terms of survival rate of an array of species. Right now, it seems to become more and more general knowledge that polar bears are dying out due to the melting of the ice and their inevitable starvation following it. In addition to polar bears, a variety of underwater species are also becoming extinct. Nicklen features images of his expeditions to both the Arctic and Antarctic over the course of 15 years in his book Polar Obsession. In addition, he was featured on his photographic story which resulted in a book on the Spirit Bear – a certain type of (white) bear in the wilderness of Canada.
I found his presentation both fascinating but also alarming in terms of the man-caused destruction of our planet. And even though mass tourism in the Antarctic is increasingly destroying this part of earth, I would still like to do an excursion to our seventh continent sometime in the future.
Another Natgeo veterean photographer is German-born adventurer Carsten Peter. Peter presented Extreme Planet this week, roughly a month after Nicklen. His presentation was entirely different and focused on the extreme sides of our planet. He dug into his adventures in Congo, where he came about as close as anyone possibly could to an active volcano. He was also friends with America’s top storm chaser and has photographed tornadoes in the Midwest for the past 11 years. His adventures included month-long excursions to the world’s deepest and largest caves, some of these lying in Vietnam and Mexico.
It was quite fascinating for me to see how someone who grew up in a rather uneventful country like Germany has been always drawn to the extremes and was able to live out his unusual dream by becoming a photographer for National Geographic and opening new worlds to us.
Peter also has a great website, Facebook, and Instagram account.
A question posed by the audience repetitively popped up after both presentations: What is the scariest situation you have been in so far? Both photographers were unable to give a distinct answer to it, implying that when you are so much in the moment like they are, you can pretty much overcome everything in order to fulfill your goal (which ultimately results in getting a great picture).
Nicklen has certainly awakened my interest into Artic life, whereas Peter has instilled hope that people can indeed survive extreme excursions and take with some great experiences along the way.
National Geographic is sponsoring a total of 4 shows throughout summer of this year. The next two are running in March and April. For more info, go to the NYU Skirball.