Witness: An Interview With iLCP Photographer Garth Lenz

What is Conservation Photography? iLCP photographer Neil Ever Osborne delves into the power of photography when used as a tool for conservation and answers this timely question through interviews with the world’s premier nature photographers and the stunning imagery of over 40 iLCP photographers and affiliates. Throughout the month, we will feature profiles of several people featured in Witness. Learn more about the film here.

Born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, and originally trained as a classical pianist, Garth Lenz left his music career in 1992 to dedicate his photography towards conservation. He has photographed environmental, wilderness, and indigenous peoples issues throughout Canada, the U.S., Chile, Ecuador, Borneo, and China. This work has led to assignments and publication in numerous books, newspapers, and magazines. These include International Wildlife, B.B.C. Wildlife Magazine, Time Magazine, The Guardian, The New York Times Sunday Edition, The Tokyo Times, The Christian Science Monitor, The Globe And Mail, Sierra Magazine among others.

Known as an outspoken advocate for the environment, Lenz’s recent images from the boreal region of Canada have helped lead to significant victories and large new protected areas in the Northwest Territories, Quebec, and Ontario. His boreal images and work from the Alberta Tar Sands received major awards at the Prix de la Photographie Paris, and International Photography Awards in 2008. In 2008, he was also awarded the Fine Print award in the Center for Fine Art Photography’s “Our Environment” exhibition for one of his Alberta Tar Sands aerial images. We caught up with Garth and asked him a few questions…

NEO: In your own words what is conservation photography?

GL: I think conservation photography is creating images that will effect change and insuring that those images do effect change. The responsibility doesn’t end when you trip the shutter, it actually beings then. Then you have to make sure those images get before the people that need to see them.

NEO: What is the role of photography in conservation?

GL: I think the role of photography is to inspire and motivate and even make people angry about conservation issues.

NEO: Can photography be an “effective” conservation tool?

GL: Because photography is such a powerful tool on an emotional level, it is a very important tool for conservation. One of the most important tools we have.

NEO: Is it strategic to blend art with science?

GL: When you go and photograph an area you have to understand what’s going on. You have to understand what makes that temperate rainforest, that tropical rainforest, or that species, important and what’s critical to its survival. We have to understand how it’s different from a manmade environment, or a tree plantation. With photography, like poetry or music, you can convey things in a very powerful way that strikes to the emotional heart of an issue. And I think that’s how people make decisions.

NEO: Is conservation photography trying to do this?

GL: Conservation photography blends art, science, and advocacy in the most potent way it can. We’re showing in images what we need to protect in a very compelling way.

NEO: Five words that describe a conservation photographer?

GL: Passion. Knowledge. Commitment. Stamina and hope.