iLCP Featured Fellow – Robert Glenn Ketchum

Sept. 25, 2015

iLCP Senior Fellow Robert Glenn Ketchum has never shied away from a challenge, and this determination has brought him a reputation as one of the most effective conservation photographers in the field.  This has not gone unnoticed, as The Explorers’ Club just awarded him the 2015 Lowell Thomas Award for being a “Visionary in Conservation.” Robert very deservedly joins a select list of some of the world’s most prestigious individuals.  For that and for his many contributions to the fields of conservation and photography, we name Robert Glenn Ketchum our Featured iLCP Fellow for October and November 2015.

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iLCP: What conservation issue are you most concerned with right now and why? 

Robert Glenn Ketchum: I want to see the “No Pebble Mine” campaign concluded politically with a rejection of the permit to develop. We are very close. I have also begun a new project regarding the San Francisco Bay restoration programs and the impending impacts of climate change on the bay.

What do you like best about being in the field?

Being in the field.

What is your best scary/funny/inspiring story from the field?

On the Tatshenshini River float that began the campaign that prevented the development of the proposed Windy Craggy mine in the watershed, our trip included two Alaska pioneer women, Celia Hunter and Ginny Woods, who were also founders of Camp Denali. The Tat River is big, powerful, very braided and confusing, full of debris wood, and really cold. In an unexpected moment while trying to hold our boat in an eddy to await others, the river sucked us out into the current. That moment dropped 70-yr old Celia Hunter in the water and swept her away. The boat was stranding a teenager on the shore bank, and as guide/oarperson tried to save her, the guide also went into the water and was swept under the boat, pinned and drowning. Within 2 minutes this was all over and everyone did the right thing so we fully survived and quickly recovered. I must also say, most trips in Alaska have moments like this. You want to play in the big wild you best be prepared.

What value do you see in an organization like iLCP?

Strength in numbers. Working together to support projects and to support and acknowledge each other’s projects gives us all more than any one of us might have individually. Our collective presence is very different than our individual presence and most of us have both and benefit from both.

What makes a great conservation photographer?

I believe you have to “live” in the issue. I do mean physically, as in climb, camp, float, fly, but I also mean the politics of the advocacy issue. An informed picture is always better than just a picture. What you know about your subject, deepens your visually “understanding” as well, so you must immerse yourself in research about your subject. I have always thought writing, speaking, and media lobbying, or working with those that will do this for you is essential to actually making something happening as well.

Where in the world would you wish to photograph next, and why?

Iceland. It looks very beautiful and unusually raw. I also want to float in those weird pools of naturally heated water with beautiful icelandic women and listen to “Of Monsters and Men.”