Florian Schulz is a professional nature and wildlife photographer who is currently working with Earthjustice and outdoor clothing manufacturer Patagonia to present Visions of the Arctic, a stunning collection of photos showcasing the beauty of the Arctic and the threats the region faces from industrialization and climate change.
As a child growing up in Germany, I often dreamt of wild places. Most traces of wilderness had already vanished in Europe, so the thought of wildlife and big open country completely fascinated me. It was my calling to explore America's wilderness. Soon, this early obsession slowly grew into a new dream: the creation of the first wildlife corridor in North America. Through my long-term conservation photography project Freedom to Roam, I am working to inspire individuals to help protect endangered ecosystems and wilderness areas.
My latest project, Visions of the Arctic, is an exciting collaboration with Earthjustice and Patagonia that aims to raise public awareness of the Arctic—both its breathtaking beauty as well as the threats it faces from climate change and industrialization. Contrary to popular misconception, the Arctic is a rich, diverse landscape teeming with life—a place where hundreds of thousands of caribou roam the plains, myriads of birds migrate to breed, and kingdoms of grizzly and polar bears meet. The region is also home to Native peoples, such as the Inupiat, whose unique, ancient culture still embrace a way of life rooted in thousands of years of experience.
To photograph an area as vast as the Arctic is no easy undertaking. After spending many months hunkered down amongst the caribou, nesting birds and grizzlies, I realized that the only way I could effectively capture this massive expanse of land was with the use of aerial photography. High above the Arctic, I was able to snap images that would offer a true representation of the interconnectedness between animals and their environment, such as the epic caribou migrations through towering mountains, rivers, and coastal plains.
But the aerial photography also revealed the extent to which humans have already disrupted the region. Though located far away from the centers of our civilization, the Arctic is already showing signs of drastic change, a reality that I saw daily through the lenses of my camera. From the hundreds of miles of oil and gas pipelines crisscrossing pristine habitat to the unseasonably early break-up of sea ice, industrialization and climate change are taking their toll on the region. But the Arctic's problems aren't confined to its borders; a melting Arctic also affects the climate in other parts of the world, not to mention the numerous species who migrate to and from the Arctic. What happens there also affects what happens here.
Visions of the Arctic, presented online and in a traveling exhibit, is both a message of hope and of urgency. Our goal is to increase public pressure on U.S. lawmakers to expand our scientific knowledge of the Arctic and its ongoing changes before allowing more aggressive plans to exploit its resources. This careful approach can help us develop a balanced management plan that preserves the Arctic not just for this generation, but for all those to come.
I hope that Visions of the Arctic leaves you as inspired to protect this special place as I was when I first experienced it. Many thanks for your support!