It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Conservation photographer Robin Moore believes this. He especially believes that the stories photographs can tell about the environment can inspire people to care for the earth. “It doesn’t matter what language you speak or what culture you come from, because a photo can speak to everyone,” Moore says.
That’s the idea behind Frame of Mind. Moore cofounded the organization last year with environmental educator Deanna Del Vecchio and fellow nature photographer Neil Ever Osborne. The group is on a mission to help young people around the world connect with nature through photography workshops.
A New View of Nature
In August 2011, Frame of Mind hosted its very first workshop with 20 youth journalists in Jacmel, Haiti. The workshop was held in partnership with Conservation International and Panos Caribbean. Each student was given a digital camera to use for the week and was taught how to use it. During the session, the kids learned about the local environment and how it relates to their lives.
Haiti is a biodiversity hotspot. This means it has a rich variety of plant and wildlife found only on the island. The country’s lush cloud forests are home to several species of threatened mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. But deforestation is a major problem in the Caribbean nation. Loggers have cut down much of the country’s trees to make charcoal, Haiti’s main source of fuel. Without proper protection, the remaining forest and its creatures are in danger of being lost. That would mean bad news for the people of Haiti, too.
As the students set out to create their own photo stories, they began to gain an appreciation of nature and understand the importance of conservation. “The kids are so truthful,” Moore told TFK. “They would tell me about their fear of frogs and how they would throw stones at birds. But by the end of the week, they realized they shouldn’t be doing these things.”
He continued, “It’s hard for me, as an outsider, to go there and send the conservation message. But when it’s the kids doing stories about their own lives, it’s a good way of communicating to parents and to government leaders the impact the environment has on everyone.”
Into the Wild
After the workshop, the students’ photos were made into a book. In February, Moore, Del Vecchio and Osborne returned to Jacmel for a special photo exhibit featuring the kids’ work and to present the students with copies of the book. That week, the group also took a field trip to La Visite national park to take more pictures for an updated book. They had planned to go back in August, but the outing was cancelled due to a hurricane. It was the first time the students had ever been in the park. “When I think about my passion and my interest in the environment, it really comes from my experiences of getting out into nature when I was their age,” Moore says. “Just to get the kids out there was the most rewarding part of the trip.”
In addition to being a photographer, Moore is also a scientist with Conservation International. He studies frogs and other amphibians. Last year, Moore led the foundation’s global search for lost amphibians. (Click here to see a slide show of the frogs his team was looking for—and rediscovered—in Haiti.) “The kids called me Dr. Krapel, because the word krapel is Creole for frog,” Moore explains, chuckling. “I think for them, seeing someone who is so passionate about frogs made them stop and think, ‘Well, I guess frogs are pretty special.’”
The students now share Moore’s dedication to protecting frogs and other wildlife. During the photo exhibit, the kids were asked to write messages about what the workshops have taught them. “Photography has inspired me to think about the future of my country,” said Fabienne Joseph, 13. Maxo Tica, 16, wrote that photography inspired him to “understand the environmental situation in my country.”
Moore believes the lessons the kids have learned will last long into the future. “This is their heritage,” he says. “They want to see it protected.”
To find out more about Frame of Mind and to see the students' photos from the workshops, go to frameofmind.org. The group is also working on a 2013 calendar that will be produced and distributed in Haiti to celebrate the country’s biodiversity.