Photo Essay: A region at risk

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Editors Note: The following is from Issue 7
Interview with Bridget Besaw
What got you interested in environmental photography?
I’ve been an environmental activist since I was a kid. Add to this a childhood spent mostly outdoors and an early love of photography and voila, the ingredients for an environmental photographer! While my style and subject matter has adapted to my varied outdoor and environmental passions over the years, I still make pictures with the same intention to evoke emotion and to heighten awareness.
What environmental issues have you documented in Patagonia?
I’m lucky to have photographed several issues Patagonia has faced in recent years— from my first trip to the region for The Nature Conservancy to cover an adaptive grazing practices project they were nurturing on Tecka Ranch in Argentina, to a project with the International League of Conservation Photographers for the Sin Represas campaign, to a long-term project for Patagonia Sur, where I documented their work in reforestation, eco-tourism and marine research.
Patagonia is one of those mysterious places for a lot of people. I think somewhere in all of our hearts we are comforted to know there are big, wild, untouched places out there. But like so many other remote places on the planet, Patagonia is a changing landscape.

Your photos often show the human side of environmental problems.
Most of the images in my essay in Patagon Journal represent the culture of Patagonia as it exists within the landscape. In my work I try to show the human relationship to nature, and in Patagonia that relationship is alive and well —and perhaps closer than in many other places in the world. It has always seemed to me that the natural elements were simply a second skin to most Patagonians. So I’ve tried to depict this comfort in my images. From the child who joyfully played in the glacial waters of Lake O’Higgins, to the young gaucho taking a mate break by the fire in between shoeing horses in Valle California, to the scientist wading out in Melimoyu Bay as the tide came in. And I’ve included the beautiful face of Sin Represas activist Cecilio Olivares as a reminder that we must all get on board with protecting the planet that sustains us. Photographing Olivares was an honor as he was one of those wise, passionate people inspiring and guiding us in the right direction. 


How do you prepare for photographing in Patagonia? What gear do you bring?
I bring about 3 camera bodies, (Canon and Leica), and an assortment of Leica and Zeiss lenses. I bring a tripod or 2 for timelapse and night scenes. And lots of lens cloths for all the rain and dust that inevitably covers the surface of everything.


What is your most memorable moment in Patagonia with a camera? 
I remember photographing Beta, the gaucho working with the Tompkins’ in the new Patagonia Park several years ago. As I was following he and his family on horseback, his wife and daughter, who were riding side-by-side, just reached out and held hands for a few moments as they rode along. It was a tender human exchange set amidst a wild, overwhelming landscape. I remember thinking that we’d have an easier time protecting big wild places if more young people had the chance to get comfortable in nature the way that young girl was with her mom just riding along into the mountains.


Bridget Besaw, a contributing editor to Patagon Journal, is an environmental documentarian through both photos and video for diverse publications and institutions. See more of her work at