Justin BlackNationality: United States
Justin Black (b. 1973) is a photographer from Washington, DC.
A leader in his field, his photographs have been featured in numerous exhibitions around the U.S. and abroad, from the UK to Los Angeles to the United States Capitol. Several exhibitions of his work have been hosted at Mountain Light Gallery, founded by world-renowned adventurer Galen Rowell. Formerly Executive Director of the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP), Black has contributed photography in support of conservation campaigns to protect threatened landscapes and ecosystems from British Columbia to Brazil, and from California’s Sierra Nevada to the Chesapeake Bay watershed, in collaboration with conservation organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy, Panthera, the Sierra Club, Conservation International, National Parks Conservation Association, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and the Wild Foundation.
His images are featured prominently in books supporting conservation initiatives, such as Freshwater: the essence of life (iLCP, 2010), and Our National Parks: America’s Natural Heritage (Earth in Focus Editions, 2010). Among his editorial clients are the National Geographic Society, Sierra, Sunset, American Photo, Rock & Ice, Nature Conservancy, Huffington Post, and major newspapers in the USA and Europe.
He is a regular contributor of feature articles to Outdoor Photographer magazine, whose editors have referred to him as a “photo safari expert.” In 2010, he curated selection of the Top 40 Nature Photographs of all time, a project in partnership with Christie’s auction house, ILCP, and Conservation International.
Black’s editioned prints are represented by The Art of Wild Gallery in Germany, and The G2 Gallery in Los Angeles. His company, Visionary Wild, has achieved a superlative reputation for delivering world-class photography travel and education experiences for small groups of passionate photographers, with instructors drawn from among Black’s leading professional peers.
Interview:1. WHO ARE THE PHOTOGRAPHERS / OR OTHER ARTISTS THAT INSPIRE YOU?
Andre Kertesz, Minor White, Eliot Porter, Georgia O'Keefe, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Edward Bur-tynsky, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Michael Kenna, Ellsworth Kelly, Galen Rowell, Jack Dykinga, Frans Lanting, Daniel Beltrá, Charles Cramer
2. WHAT MAKES AN EXCELLENT PHOTOGRAPHER?
A unique vision that informs, inspires, and motivates others through sharing a very personal way of looking at the world.
3. WHAT WAS THE HARDEST PART ABOUT DECIDING TO BECOME A FULL-TIME PHOTOG-RAPHER?
Giving myself permission when I felt it wasn't a responsible career choice. At university, during the final portfolio review for Photo II class, my professor asked me what my major course of study was. When I told him "International Relations," his response was, "Not anymore it's not!" That was all the permission I needed.
4. WHAT MOTIVATES YOU IN YOUR WORK AND WHAT IS DEMOTIVATING?
Participating with the light, the landscape, and its inhabitants in the coincidence required for a strong composition in a compelling moment, adds immeasurably to my experience of the world around me. If the resulting images move others in a meanigful way, that is obviously fulfilling, and it can be important when my work is applied to conservation initiatives.
5. WHAT ARE THE MOST PASSIONATE MOMENTS IN YOUR WORK?
Telling a conservation story, and experiencing one of those moments when real nature seems truly magical.
6. WHAT ARE THE MAIN CHALLENGES IN YOUR WORK?
Balancing work with family. Being successful as a photographer requires an immense commitment of time and energy, but so does my family.
7. HOW DID YOU DEVELOP YOUR ARTISTRY?
Spending a lot of time getting close to nature, scrutinizing photographs and two-dimensional art, and respecting those who came before me.
8. WHAT IS YOUR MAJOR PERSONAL LEARNING IN PHOTOGRAPHY THAT YOU WOULD CONVEY TO A "NOVICE"?
Make pictures for yourself, not for the market.
9. WHICH ARE THE DRIVING FORCES FOR YOU PERSONALLY AND IN YOUR WORK?
10. WHICH FEELINGS DETERMINE YOUR WORK WHEN OUT IN THE FIELD?
It depends on the place, the project, and the moment.
11. ON WHICH CRITERIA DO YOU JUDGE YOUR OWN WORK AS SUCCESSFUL?
The creation of something new that informs and inspires others.
12. YOUR PHOTOGRAPHIC WORK AND THE BEAUTY OF OUR PLANET, NATURE: WHAT CONNECTION DO YOU SEE?
There is beauty everywhere in our world, subject to perspective and circumstance. Things that are conventionally thought of as ugly can be beautiful. One of my favorite photo-graphs depicts a group of pelicans covered in crude oil. I have made photographs of situ-ations in nature that are aesthetically beautiful, but that depict evidence of rapid climate change or speak to ecosystem collapse. The situation is horrible, but the photograph is beautiful. Photographs can elevate and celebrate the beauty of nature, or they can draw the viewer in with beautiful aesthetics, and then educate about the difficult realities of today's global environment. In my work, I attempt to do both.
13. ASSUMING YOU WOULD HAVE 15 MINUTES ON A TV BROADCAST AND PEOPLE ALL OVER THE WORLD COULD LISTEN AND UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU WERE SAYING, WHAT WOULD BE THE CORE OF YOUR MESSAGE TO THE PEOPLE?
The reality is that this Earth is only home you and I, our children, and our grandchildren will ever have. We have lucked into life here, and her care is our responsibility.
»There is beauty everywhere in our world, subject to perspective and circumstance. Things that are conventionally thought of as ugly can be beautiful. One of my favorite photographs depicts a group of pelicans covered in crude oil. I have made photographs of situations in nature that are aesthetically beautiful, but that depict evidence of rapid climate change or speak to ecosystem collapse. The situation is horrible, but the photograph is beautiful. Photographs can elevate and celebrate the beauty of nature, or they can draw the viewer in with beautiful aesthetics, and then educate about the difficult realities of today's global environment. In my work, I attempt to do both.«