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10 March 2016
The Australian Museum has announced the death earlier this week of environmental photographer Gary Braasch. He had been snorkeling as he documented the impact of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef "when he was observed floating face down in the water."
The 70-year-old photographer's images have been published in Audubon, National Geographic, The New York Times Magazine and Life. He was awarded the Ansel Adams Award for Conservation Photography and was a Nikon Legend Behind the Lens.
He used to say his work takes him to the best places on earth at the worst possible times.
Braasch was born in Omaha, Neb. He earned a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University but took only one photography class. He got his start in photography while serving in the Air Force and started as a full-time photographer after he left the military.
He used to say his work takes him to the best places on earth at the worst possible times, his son Cedar, an actor, recalled. He photographed receding glaciers, oil spills, the Mount St. Helens eruption, clearcutting old growth forests and other environmental crises.
"His images allowed the viewer to experience these mysterious and magical places in a deep emotional way," Lynne Cherry, who co-authored a children's book on climate change with Braasch, remembered.
His friend and collaborator Joshua Wolfe said Braasch "was the first to spend the time and energy working with scientists to understand what is an image that accurately reflects the science and tells a compelling story." He added:
It's hard to underestimate the value of establishing the visual language for a subject. When we discuss climate change, visual images pop into our head of melting glaciers, polar bears, drought, forest fires and industrial smokestacks. For many people, the first image of climate change they internalized was taken by Gary's camera.
His son said he hopes to follow in his father's footsteps by spreading his ashes at every glacier he'd been to, as well as other sites he documented. "I've got quite a bit of traveling coming my way soon," he said.
And that world journey is possible in no small part because his father brought so many endangered sites to our attention before they were lost to us forever.