Photographer Q&A with Ted Wood
Ted Wood is a photojournalist, editorial photographer, and multimedia producer based in Boulder, CO. His work has appeared in Vanity Fair, The New York Times, The Nature Conservancy Magazine, and many other international publications. Specializing in environmental and conservation stories, Ted has most recently photographed the journey of 63 genetically-pure Yellowstone bison as they were rounded up in a holding facility near Yellowstone National Park and returned to the Fort Peck Sioux and Assiniboine reservation in northeast Montana for the first time in over 100 years.
Aurora Photos: In a multimedia piece on your website about the return of the Yellowstone Bison, one of the Fort Peck tribal leaders describes the bison as his peoples’ “prosperity and spirit.” What would you say is your “Yellowstone bison”? What fuels your spirit?
Ted Wood: All of my life I’ve been drawn to the wild places, but not necessarily the empty ones. I find the people that need these places as interesting and important as the places themselves, whether they be indigenous or contemporaries with a deep love of place. What fuels my work and spirit? It would be the preservation of wild places for their own integrity and for the role these places play in the well-being of everyone.
A.P.: What has been your favorite environmental/conservation story to photograph in recent times?
T.W.: Last summer, I was hired by The Nature Conservancy to document a new project underway in the Northern Territories (featured in the recent issue of Nature Conservancy Magazine). The Conservancy working with the Aboriginal Land Council purchased a huge cattle station (ranch) west of Darwin, created an indigenous protected area and were training aboriginals to be rangers. What made the story so fascinating is that the area is being managed with a unique blend of indigenous and scientific methods. The aboriginals are fire people, using fire to manage large tracts of savannah. Now using GPS, GIS and satellite tracking devices, they record their burn acreage, and sell the carbon credits to Australian companies. Not only are they doing helpful prescribed burns, but they’re earning money to continue their indigenous ways. It was a great story, blending the new and the old. Plus what a place to be!
A.P.: You’ve authored 10 nonfiction children’s books over the course of your career. How did you get from editorial photography to children’s book publishing?
T.W.: In 1990, I did a magazine piece on the Bigfoot Memorial Ride, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Wounded Knee massacre in South Dakota. I followed an 8-year-old on a 5-day ride in -50 degree temperatures. An editor in New York saw the story and gave me the chance to write a children’s book about the boy’s journey. That was the beginning. At the time, there were very few non-fiction photo and text books. So it was a chance to help open up a new genre. For me, it was a way to bring the real world to kids and to have 40 pages or so to do a story. What magazine would do that?
A.P.: You spent many years photographing in Mongolia. What was it that drew you to Mongolia?
T.W.: Shortly after Mongolia got its independence from Russia in 1995, I met two Mongolian conservationists at a journalism conference in Boulder, CO. When I asked them why they were at the conference, they said they had 13 national parks but not one piece of printed information about the parks. I couldn’t believe it. At the time, I was living near Yellowstone, and I tried to imagine that park without a postcard, map, you name it. Mongolia was a mystery to most Americans, but as they showed me photos, I fell in love with the landscape. It resembled Wyoming and Montana, same animals, same birds, except with nomads living in yurts and no fences for 2,000 miles. That’s all it took, and within a year I had started a non-profit to publish interpretive materials for Mongolian parks. It’s now like a second home.
A.P.: Psyched for Peyton or sad to see Tebow go?
T.W.: Sorry, I don’t follow religious news.
To view more images from Ted Wood, visit Aurora Photos.
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