Brent Stirton on Photography as Obsession

“It’s the common human elements that we all instantly identify with, that makes a great photo what it is.” –Brent Stirton

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To keep the ivory from the black market, a plainclothes ranger hacks the tusks off a bull elephant killed illegally in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park. In the first half of this year six park rangers died protecting Kenya’s elephants; meanwhile, rangers killed 23 poachers.

For Brent Stirton, photography is a responsibility, a joy, a curse, a refuge, but above all, it is an obsession. Stirton photographs to show that everything that happens in the world is interconnected. He began his career as a reporter covering factional violence in his home country, South Africa. But when he couldn’t find a photographer willing to cover the atrocities with him, Stirton picked up a camera. Stirton is a staff photographer for Reportage by Getty Images and has worked for National Geographic, the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the World Wildlife Fund, the Nike Foundation, and the World Economic Forum.  He has received numerous awards from World Press Photo, Pictures of the Year International and American Photo. —Mika Chance, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

This video portrait was produced by National Geographic magazine in partnership with the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. It is part of an ongoing series of conversations with the photographers of the magazine, exploring the power of photography and why this life of imagemaking suits them so well. Learn more about the making of the series and watch the full trailer here.

View more of Brent Stirton’s work on his website.

Video Production Credits
Photographer: Brent Stirton
Producers: Pamela Chen, NGM
Chad A. Stevens, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Associate Producer: Elyse Lipman, NGM
Interviewer: Barbara Paulsen, NGM
Editors: Mika Chance, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Camera and Sound: Spencer Millsap, NGM, Adam Jabari Jefferson, NGM