Threshold Conversations: a podcast interview with photojournalist Ami Vitale

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Photo courtesy of Threshold Conversations
© Ami Vitale

The Threshold Conversations podcast has just put out a particularly special episode, which features a unique and in-depth interview with photojournalist and wildlife photographer Ami Vitale.  

Ami Vitale has such a long list of accolades that it would take up more than the space of this article to list. Among the most notable however are the fact that she has won five World Press Photo Awards, and was named as one of Instyle magazine’s 50 Women Changing the World in 2019. She has also been named as a National Geographic woman of impact.

Photo courtesy of Threshold Conversations
© Ami Vitale

The hour-long podcast is well worth the listen to hear Ami’s perspective on her photographic journey, including her personal observations of her subject matter and her feelings towards her work. 

While she started out taking portraits of businessmen and politicians for a business newspaper, within three years, she had completely changed the direction of her photographic career, shifting to focus on conflict zones and finding herself living and working in the centre of the action.

As she explains in great detail, a near death experience out in the field catalysed a change in her perspective and her understanding of what it means to tell the story of conflict and war. She learned that there were more narratives to tell in these places beyond sensationalist images of violence.

After having worked amongst the heartbreaking depths of the ‘darkest sides of humanity’, as she describes it, she knew she needed a change in her work. That’s where conservation and wilderness photography entered the scene of her life, which went on to reveal to her the good in people and the wonder of nature.

© Ami Vitale - Sudan, the last male northern white rhino
© Ami Vitale - Sudan, the last male northern white rhino

In this episode, you’ll hear about the work she did photographing white rhinos in Kenya, including the story behind Ami’s famed cover image for National Geographic’s October 2019 issue, which captured the emotional last living moments of the last northern white rhino. 

You’ll also hear about the interesting work she did photographing pandas, including the lengths to which she and other conservationists went to understand and protect the animals.

The episode concludes with some questions from the live Zoom audience who were listening to the interview take place, and in summing up her direction for the future, Ami talked about her past.

She said, “I didn’t go [to Kenya] for the exotic. I was actually trying to find the things that connect us… and demystify it, and humanise it, and make people feel like, “Gosh! This is the same story happening in my own backyard.” 

What becomes clear throughout the podcast episode, is that Ami’s commitment to raising awareness about different animal species and their conservation is stronger than ever, and her work can teach us many lessons about the power of photography to tell stories and to make the world a better place.

You can listen to the podcast episode on the Threshold Conversations website here, where you can also see the photographs discussed that are discussed, or you can listen to the episode on the Apple podcasts app or on Spotify. 

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