Documenting Climate Change Through Nature Photography

Documenting Climate Change Through Nature <span class=Photography" loading="lazy" />

Offset photographer Danita Delimont discusses her relationship with nature photography and why she believes agents are essential.

There’s a sense of immediate urgency when you talk about climate change. With the vision of our world changing so fast, raising awareness about climate change is vital. The role of photographers documenting climate change and, in part, the climate crisis, has never been more important. In this article, we speak to photographer Danita Delimont who documents climate change through visual imagery.

Kluane National Park (Canada)An aerial view of Kluane National Park in Canada. Image via Yuri Choufour / Danita Delimont.

The idea of climate change may (at times) feel abstract, especially because it’s such a slow-moving process in the grand scheme of how immediate our world is today. More often than not, Indigenous communities and those living close to nature and off the land are the first witnesses to this dramatic shift. But, when we see images that capture the harrowing changes happening to our planet, that’s when things feel more real. Aside from photographers, agents also play a role in spreading these photos and making sure they get the exposure deserved.

Danita Delimont is one of many photographers who cover climate change. We spoke with her about her life and relationship with photography. Here’s why she believes having an agent is important, and something professional photographers should take into consideration. 

An Interview with Danita Delimont

Shutterstock: Thanks for meeting with us, Danita. Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

Danita Delimont: I grew up all over the world. I was exposed to so many different cultures and natural settings along the way! My dad was a civil engineer working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Every few years, one project would finish and since he was usually a Project Manager, we had a choice of where the family would move and our parents always involved us kids (four) in the choice. We lived in Paris, Tehran, Tucson, LA, San Francisco, Germany, and then he died and we moved back to Lincoln, Nebraska where my parents were married. I finished high school and went to college at UNL. 

Masai Giraffe (Africa)The Masai Giraffe grazing on an acacia tree in Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania, Africa. Image via Adam Jones / Danita Delimont.

He would always take slides back then and we’d show our travels on the slide projector when entertaining. Because we were regularly moving to new places, I developed a friendly and open way of interacting with people. It taught me how to interact with strangers and develop relationships wherever I went.

Very cool! Was that the transition into photography?

I actually studied some photography in college, learning about B/W darkroom techniques and had my dad’s old Kodak Retina camera from the ‘60s to play around with. My college degree, however, is in Cultural Anthropology. This has been beneficial throughout my career, working with traditional and contemporary cultural images worldwide. When working for the National Park Service as a “Cultural Interpreter” ranger, I often photographed the living history cauldron cooking, brick oven baking, and candle making programs that I developed.

Black-tailed Deer (Washington)A Black-tailed Deer buck in a wildflower meadow at Mount Rainier National Park. Image via Jamie & Judy Wild / Danita Delimont.

That’s incredibly unique! Can you talk more about your exposure to nature photography?

One of my first jobs after college (after a few seasonal positions with the National Park Service) was working for an expedition/adventure travel company. I did research and wrote their brochures and worked on their expedition ship from time to time. My first staff position on board found me cruising 3,500 miles up the Amazon River on the MS World Discoverer. The ship had zodiacs on board, with experts lecturing on various subjects throughout the trip. We would cruise up the tributaries with the ornithologist to view the birds, or the marine biologist to view the Amazon pink dolphins, or go into the villages with the anthropologist. These cruises, and the lectures and educational aspects about them, strongly influenced my interest in the natural and cultural world.

When NANPA (The North American Nature Photography Association) was founded back in the mid-90s, I jumped on board to be a charter member and have attended their nature summits every year. The ILCP (International League of Conservation Photographers) is also an important group of dedicated nature and climate change photographers, whose yearly conference has been extraordinary to attend. Seriously dedicated photographers share their stories and efforts, and it’s always enlightening in many ways!

What an incredible experience. So, you’re an accomplished photography agent. What does having a photography agent mean for one’s career? And, is it something photographers should consider?

I think for many photographers an agent is important. Many nature and wildlife photographers spend their lives in the “bush,” waiting for the right light, weather, or animal behavior. They are more quiet and reserved, not as comfortable calling up strangers or negotiating licensing deals. With serious amateurs and hobbyists, many have spent their careers in another field, so they may not understand the stock photography business. They know they love taking photos of whatever their passion is and need someone else to help them figure out what to do with their shots.

Iceberg on Black Volcanic Beach (Iceland)Icebergs on a black volcanic beach in Iceland. Image via Martin Zwick / Danita Delimont.

These are many of the reasons an agent comes into play. They usually have extensive experience working with clients and photographers, and understand what the current trends and licensing fees are. They know how to negotiate, always on behalf of doing the best for both parties. So, there is a win-win all around, whenever possible. The personal touch that an agent brings to the table can often ease one’s mind, by sharing information and having honest conversations. At the end of the day, it’s all a personal choice that many have made to their benefit.

Couldn’t agree more. Any significant experience that taught you a lesson or, perhaps, affected you in a powerful way?

When on the Amazon River in 1980, noting and learning about how the rain forests were being cut down for timber, and seeing the big scars, was alarming. Also, the mining that was changing the makeup of the natural forest, moving traditional cultures away who relied on the forest, was disturbing.

Another time (1995), I found myself out at Cape Churchill in Hudson’s Bay in October, for the polar bear congregation. I had negotiated a book deal with Dan Guravich, one of the early polar bear “expedition” photographers who ran an operation out there on the cape. This is where all the polar bears, from near and far, “congregate” because the peninsula juts out into the sea and the ice will start freezing up there first, enabling them to get out and hunt seals after a long summer ashore. During that ten-day adventure, I really learned a lot about the role the ice plays in many ways. There were many famous nature/wildlife photographers on that trip and it was great to get their perspective on environmental issues and share in the conversation.

Lesser Flamingos (Africa)An aerial view of a vast flock of Lesser Flamingos nesting in the shallow salt waters of Lake Natron, Africa. Image via Paul Souders / Danita Delimont.

Scuba diving on other expedition cruises in Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, and Australia in the 1980s/90s exposed me to the beauty and pristine wilderness that has been thriving underwater in those areas. More recent trips have revealed how these areas are now in danger of coral bleaching, as global warming raises the water temperatures.

Throughout my career, working with photographers documenting global climate change has been extremely important to me and I do my best to promote their work.

I can absolutely see why. When it comes to climate change and environmentalism through photography, who are your influences?

Jane Goodall and Margaret Mead influenced me a great deal in my earlier days. I have to say the work Jane Goodall continues to do is admirable. We have a photographer who lived at Gombe at her reserve for ten years, so I learned even more about the rain forest and chimpanzees through her! In nature photography, David Muench was always one of the big photographers in the 1980’s, whose work I loved, along with Art Wolfe and Frans Lanting, of course. I’m happy to say I know them all now and we have a mutual respect and admiration for each other.

Iceberg Grounded in LeConte Bay (Alaska)A sailboat anchors near a large iceberg from LeConte Glacier, grounded at low tide in LeConte Bay in Alaska. Image via Paul Souders / Danita Delimont.

Let’s also not forget Wolfgang Kaehler, whom I met on the Amazon River. I repped his work for eighteen years before starting my own agency in 1999. He traveled extensively, photographing the more remote parts of the world with adventure travel clients. His German efficiency taught me to be more organized and pick off one project at a time, before moving on to the next. We labeled and bar-coded every slide before digital and every image had a place in the slide file!

Sounds like an incredible network of creatives. What compels you to continue representing photographers and continue building your agency?

Photographers contact me all the time for representation of their work and I am very selective about who I will bring into my agency. In addition to fabulous nature shots, they need to bring something additional to the table that is above and beyond. Many have a personal project or dedicated focus on something, and then shoot stock as an additional income stream.

It’s great to know someone is documenting global changes so we have a record and evidence that can be used to show the general public. They traverse the planet in search of significant content. I’m committed to getting more exposure to their work, in hopes of influencing others and sharing what we have with those that will appreciate and use it for some good.

Cover image via Yuri Choufour / Danita Delimont.

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