Magazine Article


Green Photography: Images With Integrity
Everyone's getting in on the environmental act, including professional organizations, manufacturers, and your imaging comrades. Could you be next?

Book signing during an exhibition at the G2 Gallery.

daniel beltra helicopter
Photographer Daniel Beltra shoots from a helicopter
© Daniel Beltra

© Tim Wolcott

© Jim & Lara Davis-Hicks

Are you a bright green, a plain old green, or (gasp) a non-green?

According to a recent Forrester Research survey, there are three distinct segments of U.S. technology consumers: bright greens (those concerned about the environment who strongly agree they would pay more for CE products that save energy or come from a company that's environmentally responsible); greens (those who share concerns about environmental issues but don't strongly agree they would pay more for environmentally friendly products); and non-greens (comprising 47% of U.S. adults, these folks don't yet share the greens' concerns about the environment or global warming).

Whatever your "green" personality profile is, how does this translate to how you run your business? Are you a newbie looking for more energy-efficient processes and products to help you in your environmentally sound path? Or are you a veteran, already recycling, reusing, and reducing waste?

Read on to see what other professional photography organizations, manufacturers, and some of your colleagues are doing to make their mark on Mother Earth-in a positive way.


Professional organizations have become increasingly eco-aware over the past few years. Take Blue Earth Alliance (, for example. The organization sponsors projects that link documentary photography to social consciousness, raising money for issues that impact contemporary society, such as global warming, the limited water resources in the South, and unifying animal migration routes and habitats across international borders.

The International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP; was founded in 2003 by Cristina Mittermeier to raise awareness of conservation efforts through a more visual medium. Mittermeier formed a coalition of photographers working for conservation purposes, merging their passion for saving the world's natural resources with their passion for photography. Today, the ILCP works with leading scientists, policy makers, government leaders, and conservation groups to produce the highest-quality documentary images of both the beauty and wonder of the natural world and the challenges facing it.

The North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA; is cited as the first and only association in North America committed solely to serving the field of nature photography. NANPA is dedicated to promoting the art and science of nature photography as a medium of communication for nature appreciation and environmental protection.

Concern for the environment is spreading to individual festivals and galleries. This year's ArtExpo New York featured several exhibits inspired by an appreciation for the environment. Artists included environmental artists, illustrators, and photographers, including Earthwatch Institute photographer Melissa Nye.

Venice, California's G2 Gallery is another shining example of photography merging with Mother Nature. Founded by Susan and Dan Gottlieb, the gallery opened its doors in March, featuring a private exhibition of wildlife photographer Tom Mangelsen.

The gallery's opening was probably not a surprise to those who know the Gottliebs. "The G2 Gallery is a combination of what my husband and I have been all about, starting with the environmental movement in the 1960s," explains Susan. "We also both had an interest in photography."

After a trip to the Antarctic about a year and a half ago, the Gottliebs came back with tons of pictures, and they wanted to open a gallery to show off their images to friends. "It just ballooned from there," says Susan.

From the start, the G2 Gallery walked the environmental walk. "We wanted to make the building as green as possible," says Susan. "We had to do a fair amount of cleaning up when we got the place. The paint we used was nontoxic, and we put in bamboo flooring. We're also thinking about solar panels."

The work they exhibit also follows environmentally conscious ethics commonly used in nature photography. "We use National Geographic standards," she says. "You can lighten and darken your photos, but don't put an animal in the shot that wasn't there!"

At least 15% of the gallery's proceeds, if not more, will be donated to environmental causes, according to Susan. They're planning an exhibit of the work of nature/landscape photographer Robert Glenn Ketchum in the fall, as well as a group show of California shooters.


The photographers featured here are just three pioneers in the environmental arena. They all feel passionately about giving back to the ecosystem and promoting social consciousness while doing what they do best: creating compelling images. Here are some of their thoughts and ways in which they've started to make their own positive environmental impact.

Reduce, reuse, and recycle is freelance Greenpeace photographer Daniel Beltrá's key objective. "On early Greenpeace expeditions, if I had to develop my film in the field, I would keep all the chemicals and bring them back to have them recycled," he says. "Now, with digital photography, it would seem that impact on the environment is less. However, I think that is an illusion."

Beltrá, who is based in Seattle, relies on his Canon cameras and Mac laptops in the most remote locations: "They perform great, but I still need to be aware of what's happening behind the doors of the companies I support," he explains. "Also, there are still questions I feel accountable for in regards to the environmental impact of digital photography. What happens to the electronic equipment once it's obsolete? What's inside it? What are the policies of the camera and computer manufacturers I use? Will they recycle the gear once I can't use it anymore?"

Shooting in the Amazon or Antarctica can put Beltrá and his equipment under extreme stress. "I use Patagonia clothing because they are ahead of the pack in their policies and methods-they even make clothing out of reused plastic bottles!" he says. "I don't want PVC in the gear I use, and that's one of the reasons I love Think Tank camera bags."

If he buys equipment online, he'll choose ground shipping as much as possible. "I don't see the need to fly some two-ounce lens filters across the country," he says. "I'm always considering new ways to minimize my carbon footprint."
For more of Daniel Beltrá's work, go to

"I have been in the pursuit of an eco-friendly studio for my entire career," says photographer Tim Wolcott of Big Bear Lake, CA. "I helped invent the first ecofriendly [printing] process in the world. My images were the very first images ever used to market the process."

In 1991, Wolcott opened the first lab that used no heavy metals or chemicals, a process that still to this day is the least-fadeable color process. "This process started the understanding between the Evercolor pigment printing process and the development of inkjet, which I was a pioneer of," he says. "I made the very first pigment inkjet print in the world and also overhauled Epson printers to make the very first inkjet fine-art photographs before Epson did."

While most photographers were making toxic prints that faded very quickly, Wolcott and his team were making and marketing a color printing process that has changed the way everyone views fine-art photography and photography in general: "While others claim that they are environmental supporters, they make their photographs with some of the most toxic, heavy-metals processes out there."

Wolcott is still hard at work at helping the environment. "I'm in the process of meeting with investors and finalizing the project to make the very first chain of 100% eco-safe galleries in the world. Right now, the most ecofriendly gallery in the world is the one I built in Big Bear Lake, where I live today."

For more of Timothy Wolcott's work, go to

For Jim and Lara Davis-Hicks, the combination of pro photography and global charity is the stuff of dreams.

The couple live a life of interesting contrasts. One day, Jim might be floating down the Amazon, bringing life-saving water filtration systems to remote villages. The next, he's floating rubber duckies in the bathtub with his kids back in

Ohio. He could be shooting documentary images in Sub-Saharan Africa on Tuesday and wedding photos in Columbus on Saturday. While these may seem like wildly different worlds, to the Davis-Hicks team, it's all part of the big picture that is their life.

Jim and Lara form the team that is known as Davis Photography, but they're also the founders of Thirst Relief International (, an organization that's able to provide a long-term, sustainable source of clean drinking water for less than $5 per person. Together, they capture compelling wedding and portrait imagery and, with the help of an amazing team, lead a global effort to save lives and change the world. The Davis team also donates a portion of every wedding they shoot to Thirst Relief.

Each year, Davis Photography teams up with fellow photographer Davina Fear ( to host the Thirst Relief Mentor Auction. Top-tier wedding and portrait artists donate 90 minutes of their time to meet for a one-on-one mentor session, with all proceeds donated to Thirst Relief. Industry stalwarts such as Gary Fong, Mike Colón, Jessica Claire, Joe Buissink, Bambi Cantrell, Jose Villa, Denis Reggie, Kevin Kubota, Brianna Graham, and many others have donated their time, talent, and sometimes a free seat at one of their workshops. This year's auction brought in more than $33,700.

For more on Jim and Lara Davis-Hicks, go to


In today's environmentally conscious world, imaging manufacturers are becoming increasingly concerned about the negative impact their processes and product lines may have on our ecosystem-and they're implementing sustainability practices to combat these problems.

Some of the biggest players, including Olympus (, Canon (, Epson (the "Co-Existence" section at, Nikon (, and Fujifilm (, have dedicated divisions and areas on their websites where visitors can view comprehensive sustainability reports, environmental initiatives, and education.

"When Al Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth, came out, customers started to take notice, and we seemed to already have a lot of the answers," says Adam Yates, director of corporate communications for Fujifilm. "We really benefit from the heritage of our HQ based in Japan-it's an island manufacturing culture, a small, contained place with limited resources."

Green Partnerships and more

Teaming up with ecofriendly organizations or sponsoring green events is one way companies can both appease Mother Nature and customers who are looking for companies that are blazing an ecoconscious trail.

Canon lends its support with such programs as the Canon National Park Science Scholars Program, the Canon Envirothon, PBS Nature series, programs at Yellowstone National Park, and additional local programs.

Lowepro actively supports a variety of organizations, including Amazon Watch, The Conservation Alliance, Native Planet, and Raincoast Conservation Society.

Hahnemühle set up its Green Rooster website and will donate money from the sale of each Bamboo paper product with a green rooster logo toward this project.

Nikon got in on the environmental action this year by cosponsoring the 2006 World Eco-Friendly Rally.

Targus partnered with Dell in the company's Plant a Tree for Me program.

PNY Technologies teamed up with the National Geographic Society to be a Mission Partner and the "Flash Memory of Choice" of the Emerging Explorers Program through 2010.

Olympus participated in Eco-Products 2007-their fifth appearance in Japan's large-scale environmental exhibition.

Moab by Legion Paper was recognized for converting its Moab, Utah, offices to 100% renewable wind power.

Kodak was named to the Corporate Knights list of "Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World."

Recycling Redux

Recycling is another way companies can "give back" to the environment, and many photo industry manufacturers have implemented such programs into their overall environmental repertoire too.

[Ed. note: go to for some of the new "green" products that have been introduced recently.]