Gaines Lecture Series
Peter Essick’s book Our Beautiful Fragile World entails a wide variety of photographs ranging from nature photography to photojournalistic pieces. Every photograph portrayed in the book has been taken during different times of his career; however, all of them portray significant global issues, such as climate changes and fresh water supply.
Recently named one of the 40 most influential nature photographers in the world, Essick likes to play with opposites. After working on “nature disturbed” stories, such as the photo coverage “Half Life: The Lethal Legacy of America’s Nuclear Waste, he suddenly changes approach and focuses on “nature undisturbed” photographs – mountains, flowers, underwater and many more.
The National Geographic assignment about climate change was the kind of the experience that is not being offered every day, the photographer recalls. He shot in about 75 countries, capturing the main causes and consequences of the climate change. The coverage was published in The National Geographic in 2004. To capture moments and places he did, Essick said he had to believe in global warming.
Ansel Adams work is a source of influence Essick decided to pay a tribute to. In his book, "The Ansel Adams Wilderness," Essick honored Adams’ photography by creating similar images, adding his own, unique spin.
Every story Essick works on is about a specific and significant topic. Whether it is capturing the nature within a particular season, pinpointing a global issue or just simply depicting beauty of the planet Earth, he often finds himself in extreme situations, such as underwater, in the middle of a wildfire, or in severe cold and heat.
Essick is one of the best when it comes down to shooting nature. However, he is as good at shooting journalistic pieces. One such photo story included pictures of drug dealers, prostitutes and homeless who are all related to mining jobs in Vancouver.
Currently, the photographer is working on three new assignments related to national disasters that could easily become global. The first he mentioned at the lecture was the area around the Mt. Rushmore which is infested by beetles that spread rapidly. People start wildfires to fight them, Essick said. However, it’s making the problem even worse.
At the conclusion of the lecture, Essick took time to answer some of the questions students were interested in. As some of the best qualities of a photographer, he named “clear eyes”, “strong heart” and suggested to not assume anything.