Ami Vitale (US) "The Guardian Warriors" - Helphoto 2020


United States

The Guardian Warriors
Ami Vitale began The Guardian Warriors project ten years ago, after she heard about a plan to airlift four of the world’s last northern white rhinos from a zoo in the Czech Republic to Kenya. It was a desperate, last-ditch effort to save a species. At the time, there were only eight of these rhinos left, all living in captivity. When the artist saw this gentle, hulking creature in the Czech snow, surrounded by smokestacks and humanity, it seemed so unfair. It looked ancient, part of a species that has lived on this planet for millions of years, yet could not survive humanity. On March 19, 2018, Ami made the heartbreaking journey back to Kenya to say goodbye to Sudan, the world’s LAST male northern white rhino alive on the planet. This image is of the final moment when Joseph Wachira, one of Sudan’s dedicated keepers, went to give him one more rub behind his ear before he died. Sudan leaned his heavy head into his. The artist took the photo of two old friends together for the last time.

We are witnessing extinction right now, on our watch. Poaching is not slowing down. If the current trajectory of killing continues, it’s entirely possible that rhinos will be functionally extinct in our lifetime. Without rhinos and elephants and other wildlife we suffer more than loss of ecosystem health. We suffer a loss of imagination, a loss of wonder, a loss of beautiful possibilities. When we see ourselves as part of nature, we understand that saving nature is really about saving ourselves. Sudan taught Ami that. These are a series of images about the relationships and bonds between humans and endangered species. They understand how important TRUST is for a healthy planet and not just with one another, but with the creatures we coexist with. We must begin to see our world as part of the natural world; the natural world as part of our world. Our fates are linked. Losing one part of nature, is a loss for all of nature. 

Ami Vitale’s journeys as a photographer, writer and filmmaker have taken her to over 100 countries where she has witnessed civil unrest and violence, but also surreal beauty and the enduring power of the human spirit. She has lived in mud huts and war zones, contracted malaria, and donned a panda suit—all in keeping with her philosophy of “living the story.” Ami is an Ambassador for Nikon and a contract photographer with National Geographic magazine. She has documented wildlife and poaching in Africa, covered human-wildlife conflict, and concentrated on efforts to save the northern white rhino and reintroduce pandas to the wild. She has been named Magazine photographer of the year in the International Photographer of the Year prize, received the Daniel Pearl Award for Outstanding Reporting and named Magazine Photographer of the Year by the National Press Photographers Association, among others. She is a five-time recipient of World Press Photos. She recently published a best-selling book titled Panda Love, on the secret lives of pandas. Vitale was the subject of the Mission Cover Shot series on the National Geographic Channel as well as another documentary series featuring Madagascar, Over the Islands of Africa. She lectures for the National Geographic LIVE series, and she frequently gives workshops throughout the Americas, Europe, and Asia. 

Ami Vitale (US) "The Guardian Warriors" - Helphoto 2020
Ami Vitale (US) "The Guardian Warriors" - Helphoto 2020