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Posted January 27, 2012
Dispatch #13
Coming Home

This is one in a series of dispatches sent from the road by photographer Joel Sartore.

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Joel ends his trip photographing flamingos at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo, where this project began.

(Listen to Joel talk about how this project began.)

The Lincoln Children’s Zoo is where this whole project began, so it’s a fitting place for us to end this road trip.

Back in 2006, I was hoping to do a little shooting close to home while my wife, Kathy, recovered from breast cancer treatments. The LCZ was just a few blocks away. Its President, John Chapo, and Animal Curator Randy Scheer were willing to give it a try, so we started out with a naked mole rat and a pair of blue-and-black poison dart frogs.

That was 1,855 species ago. In the time since, I’ve visited more than 60 zoos and aquariums across the country. This portrait work has led to several published pieces in National Geographic, and even a book called Rare, Portraits of America’s Endangered Species, highlighting the species in the most trouble.

I’m often asked what the ultimate thing is that I’d like to do with the remainder of my career. Believe it or not, it’s not to go on safari somewhere or do aerials of polar bears on ice floes (though both of those sound pretty good). Nope, I want to make studio portraits of plants and animals, pure and simple.

There are some 6,000 species at America’s captive facilities. I figure I’m about a third of the way to documenting all of them. We have the best zoos in the world here, so I’m at no loss for subject matter, and will continue to plug away as long as I can. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m late for work.


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Michael “Nick” Nichols uses remote-controlled cars and copters to photograph lions of the Serengeti like never before.
Joel Sartore drives his mobile studio to U.S. zoos to photograph endangered species from around the world.
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