I am an environmental archaeologist and photographer from Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Through science and visual storytelling, I am interested in the relationship people have with their environments around the world and how that has changed over time. I am a national fellow at The Explorer’s Club and have worked as a documentary photographer on archaeological and conservation projects across the world, and as Photographer in Residence at the British School in Athens. I am always thrilled to work on new stories and excited to see where they might lead! My work can be found in National Geographic Adventure, Outdoor Photographer Magazine, Wild Planet Magazine, and Misadventures Magazine.
Photographers Without Borders asked Matt a few questions about his upcoming trip.
WHAT MAKES YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT WORKING WITH AZUERO?
When I first came across the Azuero Earth Project through PWB, I was immediately drawn to it. Panama is a place that at least for me, draws constant images of dense jungle and pristine rainforest. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case and in many parts of the country, the rainforest has largely been replaced by agricultural plots and plantations. It’s rapidly disappearing. The Azuero Peninsula on the Pacific coast is one of the hardest hit. The Azuero Earth Project is seeking to make a difference and by working with local communities, they are actively rehabilitating old rainforest and ensuring the preservation of important habitats that are in critical danger of being lost forever.
I personally come from a science background and was attracted by the emphasis that Azuero Earth puts on education, outreach, and their local community. Far too often I’ve seen field research and conservation work benefit those in charge, but not necessarily the people who call that place home. Azuero Earth, however, takes a different approach. They believe that meaningful and lasting change comes from within the community and works outwards, drawing in others and slowly growing. From their conservation work accomplished thus far, it’s easy and inspiring to see how they have succeeded in their mission of sustainable conservation at a local level. I am thrilled to be able to participate in their work and excited to learn about their struggles, successes, and future goals.
HOW DO YOU BELIEVE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR THEM?
In today’s world, words like conservation, endangered, research, and data are everywhere. From mainstream news to social media campaigns, there is constantly a flood of facts being pushed upon us. While much of this information, especially in terms of conservation and climate change, is of great importance, it is often difficult to relate to numbers and statistics, and the messages can get lost amongst the noise of everyday life. I believe that photography offers a solution to this problem. People can relate to a face, an animal, or a stunning landscape a lot better than a statistic. The Azuero Earth project is accomplishing some amazing feats in terms of rainforest rehabilitation, conservation, and climate change research. I hope that by using photography and visual storytelling, I will be able to document and spread their important message to a wide audience.
WHAT MESSAGE WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEND TO YOUR SUPPORTERS?
First and foremost, thank you so very much for your support. In completing this work I am excited to share the story of an organization in Panama that is going above and beyond to make a difference in conservation and our understanding of climate change. These issues are of critical importance right now and I am inspired help document a group that is really making a difference and offering a solution to an overwhelming problem.
Visit Matt's website here