Not many photographers have faced winds of 90 knots and seas of 40 feet (12 meters) while on a fishing boat in the middle of the Bering Sea.
Few can describe the bitter cold of a Siberian winter while camped out with Chukchi reindeer herders. Few others, if any, can claim to be a Pulitzer Prize finalist in a writing category.
Natalie Fobes can. With three books under her belt, a fourth one in progress, a traveling museum exhibit, and a thriving assignment and stock business, she is one of the most diverse photographers in the country. Her most recent book, I Dream Alaska, is a series of Polaroid transfers from 15 years of journeys in Alaska.
Fobes specializes in people, places, and wildlife. Her ideal assignment is one that explores the complex relationship between humans and the environment. Her dedication to this theme is exemplified by her award-winning coverage of the Exxon Valdez oil spill and her ten-year project on salmon and the people of the salmon, published in National Geographic magazine and her book Reaching Home: Pacific Salmon, Pacific People. Her traveling exhibit based on the book has been displayed in museums around the country. Over two million people have seen her exhibit to date.
Recently, Fobes has photographed the construction of the Seattle Mariners' new stadium, komodo dragons in Indonesia, Tarahumara Indians in Mexico's Copper Canyon, humpback whales in Alaska, and the people who live on "the loneliest road in America"—Route 50 in Nevada. Her clients include National Geographic, National Geographic Traveler, GEO, Audubon, Smithsonian, Travel Holiday, Time, Newsweek, Microsoft, and others. Her fine-art prints are in many public, corporate, and private collections.
Concerned that the number of magazines willing to commission documentary projects was declining, Fobes co-founded Blue Earth Alliance. The nonprofit foundation is dedicated to helping photographers pursue stories about endangered environments and threatened cultures. Twice a year, Blue Earth Alliance accepts documentary proposals for consideration. If one is accepted, the foundation extends its 501(c)(3) umbrella. The photographer is then able to accept tax-deductible donations from other foundations, companies, and individuals.
Fobes has received more than 200 awards and honors for her work. She was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, won the Alicia Patterson Fellowship and the Scripps Howard Meeman Award, and was second in World Press. Many print media and television stories have been done about Fobes and her work, including a 15-minute piece on CBS's Sunday Morning.
While not on assignment, Fobes lives with her family on a bluff overlooking Puget Sound.