Famed Photographers Sell Images to Benefit Conservation

Jane Goodall shares intimate images from her early days with chimpanzees.

chimp kissing his mother

Jane Goodall

It’s a sweet moment, as a chimp reaches up to kiss his mother’s face. The image was captured by the famed conservationist and activist Jane Goodall. She took it in 1993 in Gombe National Park in northwest Tanzania where she has studied chimpanzees for more than six decades.

The touching photo is part of Vital Impacts, an initiative raising funds for conservation support. It’s a group of 100 photographers who are using their images to raise awareness of nature and endangered habitats and support the groups working to protect them.

The women-led non-profit was founded by award-winning photographer Ami Vitale and visual journalist Eileen Mignoni. They are selling fine arts images with proceeds benefiting organizations including Jane Goodall Institute's Roots and Shoots program and Vital Impacts Environmental Photography mentoring and grant program. 

owl at sunrise
Owl at sunrise.

Javier Aznar

“Our mission is to use photography to create empathy, awareness, and understanding; to help us see that the survival of the planet is intertwined with our own survival. As photographers, we have a huge opportunity to inform and influence change, but pressing the shutter is just the start,” Vitale tells Treehugger.

“For an image to have significance, it needs to reach people. To this end, we are working to get the photographs of Vital Impacts photographers and our mentees into high-profile media and exhibitions around the world.”

common octopus
Common octopus.

David Liittschwager

The organization highlights photographers who are committed to the environment. Funds will be used to support global conservation and environmental initiatives and the group will launch two $20,000 environmental storytelling grants.

“We specifically seek out photographers who are renowned for their dedication to the planet,” Vitale says. “Nearly everyone in this sale are people I know personally or whose work has inspired me.”

Jane Goodall self portrait
Jane Goodall self portrait.

Jane Goodall

That includes Goodall, who has shared three photographs. One is an early self-portrait.  

"I was really excited to see that that photo of me looking out at the valley at Gombe with my trusty lightweight telescope was chosen. It was taken in, I think, 1962. I was on my own, very high up in the hills and I thought what a great photo this would make,” Goodall says of the image.

"I had to find a place where there was a tree that was just right for balancing the camera. I had to set up the tripod and fiddle about until I had the tripod and the imagined image of me framed just right. That was in the days before digital so I had to wait a long time before I got the results back from National Geographic. I was pretty proud of myself. I love that picture." 

How the World Is Interconnected

Galapagos sea lion
Galapagos sea lion.

David Doubilet

Many of the photos focus on wildlife and nature, but Vitale says she curated the images to show how the world is interconnected.

“We need to start recognizing that we are not separate from nature,” she says. “This sale is about both the beauty of nature as well as how we depend on it for our very survival.”

Vitale points out how images of wildlife and nature can raise awareness of threatened and endangered species and the threats they face.

“There’s a strong connection between visual imagery and empathy; when we see something, it helps us to connect our brains and hearts to feel love and compassion for other living beings,” she says. “While science and research are critical to understanding the planet and all the life we coexist with, photography can often reach people in other profound and important ways.”

There are challenges to creating compelling images when nature and wildlife are the subjects in front of the lens. It takes time, patience, and commitment, Vitale says.

giant pandas

Ami Vitale

She mentions work she did photographing rewilding pandas in China, where it took years to gain trust in order to explore their world. 

“In order to get close, I had to dress up as a panda. It’s harder to rock a panda suit than you may imagine, especially when you look like a bank robber and because it’s scented with panda urine,” she says. “Pandas go by smell, not sight, so it was smelly and sometimes uncomfortable but one I’d happily do again if asked.”  

Vital Impacts has raised more than $1.5 million dollars from the sale of fine art prints since the organization launched in late 2021. Because of a successful sale for humanitarian aid, the organization Direct Relief shipped more than 1,400 tons of medical supplies valued at $545 million to support 351 healthcare facilities in conflict and disaster zones in Ukraine and elsewhere. Other profits were able to fund 64 ranger salaries and provide fuel and vehicle assistance to support wildlife corridors, a pangolin monitoring program, and the restoration of the Snake River in the Pacific Northwest.

View Article Sources
  1. award-winning photographer Ami Vitale

  2. "Jane Goodall Self Portrait." Vital Impacts.