The current rate of biodiversity loss has thrust the world into a sixth extinction event and much of the blame falls on humanity, as does the responsibility for combating the severe losses. Raising public awareness on the rapid extinction of species is one of the most important actions we can take.
In response to this increasing crisis, photographer and filmmaker Sean Gallagher created a specialized Instagram feed to address and illustrate the realities behind the continuous decline in biodiversity we are facing today.
The Everyday Extinction awareness campaign is a multidisciplinary project that brings together professional wildlife photographers, scientists, photojournalists and fine art photographers to educate about the significance of biodiversity loss. Everyday Extinction’s photographs are geared toward biodiversity conservation efforts.
Sean Gallagher explains in an interview with Voices for Biodiversity that he was inspired by the book The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (2015) by Elizabeth Kolbert, which brought him a greater understanding of just how serious the rapid decline in species is, and how it is affecting global biodiversity as a whole.
Using photography to better communicate this issue to the general public, Gallagher took to Instagram, which has over 55 million users, to raise awareness on this important issue.
Instagram is one of the most accessible types of social media platforms for many, and using it as a medium to bring awareness to species extinction is a brilliant endeavor. Gallagher explains that “Photography captures moments that have the ability to linger in the viewer’s memory, often inspiring action or change.
By using photography to communicate the plight of biodiversity, we hope to encourage dialogue about the causes, effects and solutions to the extinction crisis.” Photography may be the most impactful medium in raising awareness about extinction because of its ability to cross language and cultural barriers.
An image often needs no accompanying text,as “Visual imagery has a special ability in vividly communicating issues”. Nonetheless, Everyday Extinction also provides captions that share the story behind the image, weaving in conservation facts and other important details. This Instagram feed serves both as a photo gallery with poignant wildlife photographs and as a tool for conservation education.
There are already over one hundred images on the Everyday Extinction Instagram feed, with new posts added daily. Each photograph portrays heart-wrenchingly beautiful images that convey loss, but also wonder at the incredible biodiversity that still exists; every single photo tells an important story.
The photograph of the Pacific lamprey is a great example of an attention-catcher. This species is very unusual and could easily inspire nightmare science-fiction illustrations. However, the included caption adds incredible depth to this ancient species that has survived several mass extinctions, only to now be threatened by human-built dams.
When asked how Gallagher sees photography being most effective in species conservation, he articulates that, “Photography has the power to illuminate and highlight issues in a way that other mediums cannot. It can highlight damage, depict beauty, inspire change and provide hope.” Indeed, some of the photographic representations in this campaign certainly inspire an urgency to address biodiversity loss.
Gallagher further explains that photography can only be part of the solution to the extinction crisis. Nevertheless, it is certainly one of the greatest tools available to educate a wide audience. Instagram in particular allows us to see the world through the millions of lenses of its users, and in turn serves as a platform for encouraging diverse individuals to be inspired and informed on the rising species extinction crisis.
Gallagher goes on to explain that “Action must be taken from all sectors of society if the biodiversity extinction crisis is to be averted. Photography is just one powerful tool that can be used as part of the solution.”
Everyday Extinction is open to contributions from experienced photographers and scientists who would like to be part of the project by sharing their expertise and photographs on the subject of extinction.
To ask about submissions, please contact Sean Gallagher on Instagram or Facebook.
This article was first published by National Geographic on 22 Dec 2017.