How did Vital Impacts start?
The genesis of Vital Impacts came from a desire to use photography and powerful narrative imagery to support organizations working to protect threatened habitats and amplify these critical stories. Photography has the unique ability to transcend languages and help us understand our connection to all life. It is the ultimate tool for creating empathy, awareness and understanding. About a hundred of the best photographers in the world have come together to save the environment. Using their art, they raise funds to support local conservation organizations.
For 25 years, I have been reporting stories about the impacts of humanity on the planet. Human activity has placed a million plant and animal species in immediate danger of extinction, causing what scientists have identified as the sixth major extinction event on this planet. Not only is this extinction caused by humans, it is happening at an incredibly fast and accelerated rate. The elimination of these key species impacts us all. These giants are part of a complex world, created over millions of years – their survival is closely tied to our survival.
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What happens next is in our hands. Nature is resilient if we give it a chance. But first we have to fall in love with the world around us – only love gives us the courage to make a difference. We must do all we can for the creatures that inhabit the Earth. They are our traveling companions in this universe. Our future happiness depends on it.
TOGETHER, WE ARE WHOLE: Ami Vitale documents nature and humanity. See Vital Impacts, his photo collective organized to support nature, on: www.vitalimpacts.org. Photo courtesy: Fabrice Herpain, via A Vitale
Who is involved in this project?
We are honored to have Dr Jane Goodall DBE, the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees, who contributed to the prints available for the first time since her work in Gombe National Park. Our other contributors are drawn from the covers of National Geographic and the world’s most prestigious art galleries. Some of the outstanding photographers featured are Paul Nicklen, Cristina Mittermeier, Nick Brandt, Beverly Joubert, Joel Sartore and Stephen Wilkes. They are part of the hundred or so participating photographers. They have captured so many parts of our beautiful and interconnected world.
In our inaugural sale, we use the funds raised to support Life Foundation, the Jane Goodall Institute’s Roots and Shoots program, Great Plains Conservation’s Project Ranger and SeaLegacy. This is just the start – we are planning many more sales to benefit organizations whose work has life-changing impacts. We also work exclusively with nonprofit partners who empower local communities who are the best stewards of their land and understand how important nature conservation is. Vital Impacts will also help help Indigenous communities document the nature around them, so they can control the narrative and inspire the world to see the value of what they see.
I am grateful to all those I have witnessed who have a deep concern for the creatures with which they coexist. This care stems from the understanding of the entire web of life. Their commitment motivates me to protect this beautiful living planet. Vital Impacts was founded with this at the heart of its mission.
One of your most iconic photos is of the death of Sudan, the world’s last male northern white rhino. What did you experience while you were telling this?
I met Sudan in 2009 after hearing about a plan to airlift four of the world’s last remaining northern white rhinos from a zoo in the Czech Republic to Kenya. It was a desperate effort to save a species, in the hope that it would reproduce. There were only eight left, all in zoos. Sudan, this gentle and towering creature in the Czech snow, was part of a species that had lived on this planet for millions of years, but could not outlive mankind.
I remember when Sudan first set foot on African soil. The sky darkens. Torrential rains came – Sudan put her head up to smell the rain and rolled on the ground. It was his first mud bath since he left at the age of two. His move may have saved his life – poaching is the reason there were only eight white rhinos left. The animals were not breeding and in 2018 I had to say goodbye to Sudan, which was surrounded by those who loved it. Even today, poaching is not slowing down. If the slaughter continues, rhinos, elephants and many plains animals could functionally disappear in our lifetimes. The history of Sudan has helped me understand how we are not separated from nature. Our destiny is linked to that of animals. To save them is to save ourselves. Without them, we lose healthy ecosystems and a wonderful world.
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