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© tpsdave/Pixabay

National Geographic Photographer Inspires Conservation Through Art

Picture of Rachel Gould
Art & Design Editor
Updated: 26 April 2017

Paul Nicklen’s photographs capture the farthest reaches of the globe. Gracing the pages of National Geographic, his images of sublime landscapes and magnificent species command attention for their sheer beauty; but it’s the dark side of conservation photography that inspired Nicklen to open a new gallery in Manhattan.

An award-winning assignment photographer for National Geographic, Paul Nicklen’s enviable profession sees him on expeditions all over the world. With an artful eye, Nicklen captures arresting moments in the wilderness, encapsulating scenes that many of us have never—and at this rate, will never—experience in person.

Words by @craigwelch // Ice in Antarctica never stops being magical. Ninety percent of an iceberg is usually under water, and this frozen freshwater typically melts faster below the surface of the sea than above. Sometimes during this process, as the melting freshwater rises in the ocean it breaks into plumes, like rising thunderheads, mixing in more warm water. That melts channels in the sides of icebergs, creating seams, like ribs, in the underwater portion of the iceberg, says Richard Alley, a Penn State geologist and ice expert. When sunshine and warm air melt ice above the surface, the iceberg slowly rises, exposing these achingly beautiful vertical flutes, which we saw during our journey along the western Antarctic Peninsula. Followme# on @paulnicklen to learn a lot more about the changing polar regions. With @natgeopristineseas and @sea_legacy #ice #nature #climatechange #antarctica #adventure #beauty #patternsofnature #mpa

A post shared by Paul Nicklen (@paulnicklen) on

Much of Nicklen’s documentation reveals the tragedy of our planet’s deterioration. From rapidly melting ice caps and the starving creatures that walk them to the depths of endangered ocean life, Nicklen photographs Earth’s splendor, as well as its decline.

A female polar bear and her two cubs, just seven months old, stand along the basalt shores of Spitsbergen, #Norway. Cubs this young are not yet expert swimmers and cannot remain in the cold water for long periods of time. Svalbard has many glaciers, and adult bears can swim out to try and catch an unsuspecting seal off a piece of drifting glacier or sea ice, however, the glaciers are rapidly receding and such ice islands are becoming fewer. For the 10th Anniversary of Earth Hour, I'm joining the #MakeClimateMatter online community. This image speaks to the importance of climate change and the very real impact it has. Earth Hour is the world's biggest social movement for action on climate change. Sign up to take part on March 25th, 8:30pm,

A post shared by Paul Nicklen (@paulnicklen) on

But Nicklen doubles as a biologist/conservationist, and sees hope in the future of environmental activism. “His personal mission is to use his images…to ignite a conversation about the future of our planet’s natural wonders and to inspire action,” the photographer’s website explains. And with over 30 international awards under his belt, he cleverly uses his art form to reach the public: through the pages of National Geographic, through his Instagram account with well over 3 million followers, and now, with a dedicated fine art gallery in New York City.

Paul Nicklen Gallery opened in SoHo on Earth Day (April 22) with an inaugural exhibition featuring Nicklen’s photographs of animals as extraordinary as the environments they inhabit. In addition, informative videos profiling Nicklen’s nonprofit organization, SeaLegacy, are streamed. A portion of the proceeds from sold artworks will be donated to SeaLegacy.

Nicklen’s mission is to educate visitors through his art. Gallery attendants are available to handle sales, but they’re also present to discuss the gallery’s message. For Nicklen, the circulation of accurate information is the foundation of activism.

Future exhibitions at Paul Nicklen Gallery will showcase the work of other environmentally-minded artists whom Nicklen hopes will inspire a new wave of conservationists.

347 West Broadway, New York, NY, 10013