Aurora Photographer Bridget Besaw has been involved in environmental issues since an early age. Her photography tells the stories of our environment and the impact of how humans effect their habitat. We recently interviewed Bridget about her book From the Land and her upcoming projects.
Aurora Photos: You spent a great deal of time working to capture the images that are now published in From the Land, what was it like to be a part of a project like this, and what did you hope to accomplish in this project?
Bridget Besaw: It was a privilege to be able to spend so much time with people who have dedicated their lives and livelihood to creating healthy, local food. My goal was to create images that brought the viewer to the farm, to the soil, and to the people who tend it. I set out to make imagery that illustrated how closely connected we actually are to the soil and the seasons and the cycles of nature–if we choose to remember this connection.
A.P: You have focused your work environmental photography, when and how did you spark an interest in this?
B.B: I have been an environmental activist since I was a kid fishing in streams in my back yard with my dad…wondering about the health of the rivers and the fish, asking questions about wildlife and how humans were effecting their habitat from the tree-fort we made out back. After years of newspaper and magazine photography on a variety of issues that didn’t interest me, I began to develop large-scale projects that nurtured my love of nature and my desire to protect it. I realized that for me, an in-depth body of work for a conservation organization had more power to raise awareness than a single magazine article, and the creation of the work, the relationship with the organizations and the stories, was just more fulfilling all-around for me.
A.P: Is there one particular conservation project you have a deep passion for, or are you involved in any and all that you can be?
B.B: Thats a great question! One I’ve never been asked before! I recently decided to focus on stories that have a component of food/nutrition in them. I believe that the health of our bodies is directly related to how functional our relationship to the planet is. To be healthy, we must have an understanding of our delicate connection to the planet’s natural resources. So I am interested in projects that address this reality like the comparison of large-scale, high-impact agriculture vs local & organic farming, sustainable fisheries vs unsustainable ocean harvests, and ultimately–in the necessity to adapt our food consumption practices that humans must accept now in order to live in health– on a healthy planet.
A.P: What advice do have you for amateur photographers looking to break into the environmental and conservation side of photography?
B.B: Take one of my workshops! Ha! Just kidding…but I have created the “Conservation Photojournalism” workshop that I teach at the Maine Media Workshops and now I have created similar ones here in Patagonia, that pair up students with organizations and give them an assignment for the duration of the workshop. The feedback so far has been tremendous in that it gives students a safe, nurturing environment to tackle an environmental story for a “client” and then to deliver it by week’s end.
Otherwise my best suggestion is to seek out a story or an issue in your area, in your backyard, that you care about and then find the organization that is working on this issue. There most certainly is one, and they most certainly need photography to help them in their efforts. The relationship may at first be one of a simple trade of access to their people and their story in exchange for your photographs, but often those relationships build into long-term fulfilling client situations, all the while creating a portfolio and demonstrating a commitment to telling conservation stories.
A.P: Do you have any new and exciting upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about?
B.B: I just finished the filming of a short documentary on the salmon farming industry in Chile. I hope to enlighten American consumers about the levels of antibiotics and other chemicals this food is produced with, and to also raise awareness among Chileans about the environmental effects of the industry on Chilean waters. This will be released in both the US and Chile.
Also this summer I begin a multi-year project for the Penobscot River Restoration Trust documenting the removal of 3 hydrodams from the Penobscot River–a globally significant river restoration project that will open up 1000 miles of fish habitat and restore recreational and traditional fishing opportunities along the river.
To view more images from Bridget Besaw, visit Aurora Photos.