Finding Inspiration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

Brown bear

“The creatures of our planet have given me everything yet they ask for nothing in return. Giving voice to these majestic creatures and their habitat will forever be my lifelong work.” – Robert Thorpe

Wildlife photographer Robert Thorpe talks about his relationship with one of the most beautiful regions of the world, and with the people who inhabit it.

Much of your photography centers around the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. What compels you to focus on this area?

The Coastal Plain in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is unprotected from oil exploration. It has been so for years. The Gwich’in call it the sacred place where life begins as it is the birthing grounds for the Porcupine caribou herd.

Not only is it my goal in life to someday see the Coastal Plain permanently protected, but it is also my goal to continue the work of Mardy Murie and her husband Olaus whose lifelong work was instrumental in establishing the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

When Olaus passed away, Mardy continued his work. She left us with a treasure. I can only hope that in someway I can do the same.


What do you hope to communicate through your work?

I hope to give voice to the creatures of our planet and their habitat. And to help preserve the last remaining wild places on our planet.

What is the relationship between art and activism?

My love for the Arctic drew me to photograph the gulf oil spill in 2010. Before and after my trip to the gulf, people asked me why I did this. I told them it was because of my love for the Arctic.

Caribou heard

What is the single most important thing artists can do to address climate change?

As a photographer I have always shared the beauty of the Arctic with my images of Greenland, Norway, Alaska or (Antarctica) to give voice to climate change. The poles are a vital gauge of the planet’s environmental health.

Yet there are times I will use a simple image like the one below, which I recently took in Vermont to try to inspire people.

I feel using my photographs can be a powerful tool to address climate change.


What gives you hope?

When a young child inspires people with his or her thoughts and work.

I held an essay contest with my local library a year or so ago. The subject was polar bears and our planet. I chose this young boy as the winner of the contest.

Polar bears essay

Filed under: Featured Artist, Photography


Artists and Climate Change is a blog that tracks artistic responses from all disciplines to the problem of climate change. It is both a study about what is being done, and a resource for anyone interested in the subject. Art has the power to reframe the conversation about our environmental crisis so it is inclusive, constructive, and conducive to action. Art can, and should, shape our values and behavior so we are better equipped to face the formidable challenge in front of us.

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