Ode to Joe Riis: Amazing Photographer + Awesome Dude
Joe Riis is a man of few words. Maybe it’s because he’s a South Dakotan, or because he spends the majority of his time in the wild setting up camera traps to capture threatened wildlife. He doesn’t have to say much because his photos do that for him. And the words he does say — you should listen to.
We’ve had the fortune to work with Joe on two RAVEs (Rapid Assessment Visual Expeditions) with the International League of Conservation Photographers: both in British Columbia, one in the Flathead Valley and just a week ago in the Great Bear Rainforest.
We got to know Joe really well as we followed him through the remote and mountainous backcountry of the Flathead in search of mountain lions, grizzlies and mountain goats. The guy is incredibly talented and lucky or part wild animal himself (or maybe a mix of the two) because we captured some incredible images in just a couple weeks. Enough to help the groups fighting to protect the Flathead actually win the first round against mining companies!
Catch a glimpse of what we’re talking about by watching the star of Flathead Wild, Joe Riis, on film…
Obviously, we love the heck out of Joe. So much that Kyle asked him to photograph his wedding this summer (Joe fought back the urge to set up camera traps) and Trip is ready to start a Joe Riis fan club. So, we’d like for you to learn a little more, and read a few words, about one of the best wildlife photographers, and humans, that we know…
This month, we teamed up with Joe and the iLCP, again in BC’s Great Bear Rainforest. Home to white spirit bears, ancient forests, and stunning marine biodiversity, it is one of the planet’s most priceless treasures, but overseas oil interests wanting access to western Canada’s tar sands, the second largest known oil reserves in the world, have put the region in threat, prompting the action of conservation groups and the iLCP.
Great Bear RAVE Profile: Joe Riis
South Dakota native Joe Riis is a full-time wildlife photojournalist dedicated to working on endangered species and ecosystems. Born in 1984, he was raised on the Great Plains along the breaks of the Missouri River in Pierre, South Dakota. A National Geographic Young Explorer armed with degrees in Wildlife Biology and Environment & Natural Resources from the University of Wyoming, Joe connects sound science with nature photography. Joe is widely recognized for his photographic work on the Missouri River and on the Pronghorn migration in Grand Teton National Park.
He has published work in many local and national publications and has had solo-exhibitions showcased throughout the U.S. including the U.S. Dept of Interior Museum in Washington D.C. He photographs entirely in the wild, not in captive situations or “game farms,” his photographs are also presented in their true form without any computer manipulation. Joe is always searching for a good story, and uses both photos and words to captivate his audience.
We caught up with Joe before he left for Great Bear and asked him a few questions…
Why do you personally care about the Great Bear Rainforest? And have you ever been before?
I care about this place because I care about wild places and wild animals — it’s that simple. I also like to eat wild salmon, which needs no further explanation. Wild salmon and crude oil do not coexist.
Yes, I have been to the Great Bear Rainforest. I was here in August of 2009 on a film assignment, and was based in the fishing village of Klemtu. I was setting up remote video cameras for a British film production that focused on spirit bears. I’ve been dreaming about coming back here to Great Bear for the past year, and am super stoked to set up my camera traps to capture bears and wolves.
How far did you travel to come and shed light on this important issue? What is your assignment on the RAVE?
Not very far, I’ve spent the past month in northern British Columbia working on the Sacred Headwaters RAVE, photographing stone sheep, moose, and mountain caribou, which was totally awesome. I was based at the headwaters of the Skeena, Stikine and Nass rivers for the entire month of August. And now I am on the coast where all three rivers flow into the ocean. Journeying from source to sea and capturing all of the life along the way throughout the past month has been so so magical.
What do you think the power behind a RAVE is?
It’s all about the power of the people. The power starts with the local conservation group, then when we add the team of photographers, everything shifts to empowering the general public to protect this place. We (the photographers) are showing them what they have and trying to help them (the public) visualize the incredible landscape and life they live with, and inevitably have the power to protect.
Why is conservation photography such an essential element to the conservation movement as a whole, and this project in particular?
People need to see the changes that are happening to this planet, bottom line, and they need to be inspired and connected. That is conservation photography.