National Geographic Explorer Ciril Jazbec is well-versed in the art of storytelling. For more than 20 years, his work as a photographer and documentarian has taken him around the world, to report on the technology revolution in Africa, hunters in Greenland, and rising sea levels in Kiribati.
These stories may at first appear entirely disconnected, but there is a thread weaving its way through much of Jazbec’s work. He calls it “climate resilience.”
“I’m trying to portray and produce stories that are addressing the solutions, the attempts from scientific to local communities of how to find solutions to the consequences of climate change,” he explains. His work focuses on people and places at the front lines of climate change and globalization.
Jazbec grew up in northern Slovenia, which he describes as “like a little paradise” and a formative experience in terms of his connection with nature. “I grew up by the Alps,” he recounts, “so in winter you can go snowboarding five minutes away from home or in summer it's like one hour to the Mediterranean. It’s an amazing mixture.”
After studying management in Ljubjana, Jazbec went to London to pursue a master’s degree in photography. Here, he says, his interest in climate issues was sparked.
“That's where I started to ask myself, ‘what's the purpose of all this?,’” he recalls, “‘What kind of stories do I want to tell?’”
Around the same time, Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" premiered, and Jazbec says he was “totally caught” by it. “I just decided to do something crazy,” he says. “I traveled to Kiribati for my master's project, to this tiny island nation in the South Pacific. And I lived there for five weeks and I did a story on the rising sea levels and how people are struggling to make a living because of these problems.”
Thus began a fascination that would persevere through much of his work. For National Geographic magazine, Jazbec has told the stories of the threats faced by Greenland’s traditional hunters, the scramble to preserve glaciers in the Alps, and efforts to maintain receding ice into the summer months in India.
Now, Jazbec is turning his attention to an analogous story in South America. He recently returned from several weeks in the Peruvian Andes, where tropical glaciers are disappearing at alarming rates, precipitating what Jazbec describes as a “really alarming” water management issue.
At the heart of Jazbec’s work are the communities he works with. He takes an immersive approach to his work, often spending significant amounts of time in situ. “Even for a Nat Geo magazine story, you’re really invested for a year,” he explains. “It is so much about connections and trust.”
“Down in Peru, I was so proud,” he says. “People opened their doors…and that’s really the most powerful thing. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to [sic] have these opportunities.”
Jazbec will be documenting inspiring attempts to fight climate change among mountain communities in a three-chapter multimedia project, as part of a new collaboration between the National Geographic Society and The Climate Pledge, launched in May 2022. The partnership supports National Geographic Explorers documenting the global climate crisis as part of the Society’s Global Storytellers Fund.
ABOUT THE WRITER
For the National Geographic Society: Andrew Rasner is Senior Manager of Digital Content at the Society.