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by Sheena Wilkie
|Each month when I was a little girl, we received the National Geographic magazine. And each month, I acquired another animal to be concerned about or another person’s plight to care about. I had never seen a sea turtle, but I cried when I saw a photograph of one entangled in a net. When I looked at the photographs of whalers hunting off the coast of Japan; the urgent cries of the whales, their thrashing, and the spray of their blood was entirely real for me. I’d never been to Biafra, but the children with those big sad eyes and distended bellies touched me in a way that shaped who I would become.
I wasn’t alone. These kinds of photographs raised an entire generation of us to care about the world around us and the people in it. Photography has brought the world into our living rooms and provided us with stronger emotional connections than any previous generation. Photography allows us care about that which we can’t sense or experience directly.
But these days, the connection between photography and the real issues of the world has changed. It is no longer simply about bringing the crises to light. Most of us already care about the problems, but may not know how to address or solve them. Wonderfully, photography now plays a part in the solutions. Now we can document how conservationists are making a difference, and illustrate the fantastic successes of many conservation efforts, not to mention humanitarian aid and relief programs around the world. These photos show us what is possible and encourage us to become actively involved.
This issue brings us John Lowman’s photography of Maplewood Flats and the diverse wildlife there. This kind of photographic effort serves to keep the value of these natural resources fresh in our minds. And that awareness is vital to ensuring that they are protected and remain natural marsh and mud flat habitats instead of becoming boat marinas and parking lots.
Likewise, Chris Harris explains in his article that the goal of his book was to increase awareness of British Columbia’s grasslands. After gazing at the landscapes in his photos, one can’t help but to feel the importance of protecting them from urban expansion and inappropriate land management.
Today, there is a worldwide ban on the driftnets that killed turtles in the past. Similarly, a moratorium on whaling is in place. Doctors without Borders was born out of the suffering in Biafra. Thanks to photographers, the people and environments of the world have never been so real to us.