October 2, 2015

Gary Braasch, Acclaimed Photojournalist, Visits Cornell

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Acclaimed photojournalist Gary Braasch told a Cornell audience Wednesday that while people may not know his name, many have seen his photographs documenting the effects of climate change.



Braasch’s photographs have been featured in numerous publications, including Time, Life, Discover, Smithsonian, National Geographic and Scientific American, among others.

Prof. David Kay, development sociology, introduced Braasch at the lecture, saying Braasch was featured on the cover of The New York Times Magazine earlier this year and has received formal recognition for his photographs.

“In 2010, he was named one of the 40 most influential nature photographers by Outdoor Photography Magazine,” Kay said.

Braasch, who has been a professional photographer for almost 40 years, said he has found and photographed visible manifestations of climate change throughout the world.

“I tried to go to the places in the world where based on the science changes are happening and the scientific papers are showing that it is connected with climate change and the emission of CO2 into the atmosphere,” Braasch said.

In particular, Braasch has become well known for documenting retreating glaciers. He said he often returns to the vantage points of historical photos to show how much the glaciers have receded since the original photos were taken.

“What I would do often was to go to to historical archives and then go back and try to find the place where the photographer had stood then,” Braasch said.

Braasch said that as he photographed the effects climate change, he also become interested in the scientists who were making environmental observations and measurements.

“As I went along I learned how to talk to scientists and learn from them and photograph them,” he said.

In 1998, Braasch completed a series of photographs on the scientists behind the study of climate change.

“Nobody at that time was paying attention to the people who were actually bringing back evidence,” Braasch said.

Braasch said he once photographed a group of peruvian scientists who were working to document trees in a plot of forest. These researchers counted 140,000 trees, physically marking them and measuring them with calibers.

“They know, for example, that there are more species of trees per hectare in this forest than there are in all of North America,” Braasch said. “They know this because they counted every one of these trees.”

Braasch said he particularly likes to photograph scientists counting measurables to find evidence of climate change.“There are incredible computer experts working on climate change, there are people using incredibly sophisticated machines like the ones that tell us how much CO2 is in the atmosphere,” Braasch said. “But here he is working with a simple hand counter.”

Braasch said that he hopes to learn from Cornell’s research in sustainability and alternative energy during his stay in Ithaca.

“I know that there’s a lot going on here about renewable energy and about the way we have to live in the future,” Braasch said. “I am very happy to be here.”