FEATURED iLCP PHOTOGRAPHER FOR NOVEMBER 2013
A firm believer in the power of images and words to shape public opinion, photographer and writer Amy Gulick uses her work to educate both the public and decision makers on conservation issues. Her work has appeared in Audubon, Sierra, National Wildlife, Outdoor Photographer, High Country News, and other publications. She has covered numerous topics including: endangered species, old-growth forests, illegal wildlife trade, commercial whaling, plastics in the oceans, and the effects of the aquarium trade on coral reefs. Her photographs have been featured in the conservation campaigns of the Alaska Wilderness League, The Wilderness Society, Trout Unlimited, Audubon Alaska, and other organizations. To learn more, visit salmoninthetrees.org.
Gulick’s current work focuses on the Tongass National Forest of Alaska. Her book "Salmon in the Trees: Life in Alaska's Tongass Rain Forest" is the recipient of an Independent Publisher Book Award and two Nautilus Book Awards. The Tongass contains one-third of the world’s remaining old-growth coastal temperate rain forests, and the largest reserves of old-growth forests left in the United States.
Gulick’s work has received numerous honors including the prestigious Daniel Housberg Wilderness Image Award from the Alaska Conservation Foundation, the Voice of the Wild Award from the Alaska Wilderness League, and a Lowell Thomas Award from the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation. She is also the recipient of a Philip Hyde Grant Award for her work in the Tongass National Forest, and a Mission Award, both presented by the North American Nature Photography Association.
Gulick is a national speaker on both the Tongass National Forest and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge of Alaska. She is a a Fellow with the International League of Conservation Writers, a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists, and is the conservation columnist for Currents, the magazine of the North American Nature Photography Association.
iLCP: What conservation issue are you most concerned with right now and why?
Amy Gulick (AG): I continue to work on my Salmon in the Trees project (www.salmoninthetrees.org), focusing on both the wild and human communities of the Tongass National Forest of Alaska. The Tongass contains the world's largest remaining reserves of intact coastal temperate rain forest, all five species of Pacific salmon, the world's highest nesting density of bald eagles, and some of the world's highest densities of both brown and black bears. The ecosystem is still intact and yet the modern world is here too, just not in droves and not at a scale that has altered the natural world beyond recognition -- yet. There are threats, of course -- mining, logging, energy development, climate change, etc. History has shown that it's only a matter of time before a place like this goes the way of the Dodo. But I have a lot of hope for the Tongass. There's still time to get it right, and societal attitudes are changing to value the Tongass for its ability to provide a sustainable way of life for local people and visitors in perpetuity.
iLCP: What do you like best about being in the field?
AG: Photographing this unbelievable world we share forces me to focus my mind and live in the present. And there is no better way to feel alive than to live in the present. Whether I'm photographing a bear fishing for salmon, a breaching whale, or a tranquil landscape, I know that I am seeing incredible and yet perfectly natural moments that occur every day, but that most people don't see. I feel a sense of both awe and responsibility to help others see their world.
iLCP: What is your best scary/funny/inspiring story from the field?
AG: There are so many! But the one I like to tell is of a day on a salmon spawning stream in Alaska. I'm standing along the stream photographing thousands and thousands of salmon fighting their way upstream. There are bears everywhere, eagles screeching, and ravens cawing. I've got one eye pressed against the viewfinder and the other eye open for bears. After a couple hours, there were no bears in my field of vision and I moved in a little closer to photograph the salmon. For some reason that I still can't explain -- I didn't hear anything or see something out of the corner of my eye -- I looked up from the camera and there is a bear standing very close to me. At this point, all you can do is keep your wits about you. I looked at the bear and realized it was doing the same thing I was -- staring intently at the salmon. As a photographer, I've always felt that I was a witness to nature, and not really a part of it. But it took me virtually standing shoulder to shoulder with a bear in a salmon stream staring at salmon to realize that I am a part of nature and that we're all a part of this incredible home called Earth.
iLCP: What value do you see in an organization like iLCP?
AG: The iLCP has done the impossible -- wrangling a bunch of crazy, independent photographers, each working in his/her own way to save a particular part of the world. Together we are now a collective powerhouse that can mobilize quickly, make powerful images, and get them in front of decision makers through effective partnerships.
iLCP: What do you get out of being a member of the iLCP Fellowship?
AG: Knowing that there are many of us all over the world documenting conservation issues and partnering with organizations to reach decision makers gives me hope that we can use our skills to make a difference. I particularly appreciate the camaraderie among the Fellowship -- being able to call on each other for advice or to brainstorm ideas is invaluable.
iLCP: What makes a great Conservation Photographer?
AG: A great conservation photographer knows that the real work begins after he/she has made the photographs. What you do with the images to influence conservation is more important than the photos. A great conservation photographer also knows that the images alone won't accomplish much -- the importance of partnering with NGOs, government agencies, etc. is crucial if we are to achieve any conservation success.
iLCP: Where in the world have you not photographed yet, but would like to?
AG: I tend to look at a world map and zero in on places that are changing rapidly -- losing biodiversity, charismatic species, and human culture. For personal reasons, I would like to see places before what makes them special is gone -- the mountain gorillas of Africa, a way of life on ice at the polar regions, the coral reefs of the Indo-Pacific, etc. I feel fortunate to have seen so much wild country, and to have had eye-to-eye encounters with an array of wildlife. If someone told me today I had six months to live, I would die a content person. No regrets.