Written by Catherine Stimac, Executive Producer, Educational Production of Oregon Public Broadcasting
Award-winning photojournalist and ecosystem advocate, Gary Braasch offered the world a vast collection of photographs that expose the beauty and complexity of the natural world and transmit a passion for and delight in nature. Gary worked tirelessly to document and preserve what he saw through this view finder.
Gary’s work and philosophy are featured in Essential Lens: Analyzing Photographs across the Curriculum, produced by Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) for Annenberg Learner.
The production team at OPB and staff at Annenberg Learner were stunned and saddened by the recent news of Gary’s death. He died in March 2016 doing what was most important to him — photographing the effects a warming climate was having in precious ecosystems around the world. He had been snorkeling and documenting coral bleaching at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia for the Australian Museum and its Lizard Island Research Station. “He was a great man, and he died doing what he loved to do,” his son, Cedar Braasch said of his father.
Gary was a consultant to, subject of, and photographic contributor to Essential Lens. His work appears in the photo collection Earth, Climate, and Change: Observing Human Impact. Essential Lens provides rights-cleared photos and lesson plans, and guides teachers on using photographs to help students sharpen their observation and analytical skills while learning about important issues in our global community.
Gary recorded landscapes and species at risk due to receding glaciers, rising sea levels, eroding coastlines, and other effects of global warming. Gary’s work appeared in the New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, and Life, among many other publications and productions, including the Al Gore film “An Inconvenient Truth.”
Producer Beth Harrington profiled Gary’s work in the online video Evidence (begin at 12:24 min.). “Gary was a lovely, amiable man but he also imparted a great sense of mission when he spoke of photography. I’m in awe of the dedication it took for him to return, again and again, to places all over the world to do his repeat photo work,” said Harrington. “But, of course, that was just one aspect of his extremely high caliber work. He gave us a view of our world that few others could have provided. We’ve lost a great agent for understanding and change.”
Gary also spent a great deal of time educating the public, teachers, students, and especially policymakers using his photographs as the undeniable evidence. To broaden the impact of this work Gary was a founding Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers. Gary explained the contribution of photography to the campaign against climate change in the video Evidence: “This idea of having a long term view of the landscape, and being able to tie it to what the scientists are saying… I’m trying to connect people to the process…so they can see the changes that are happening and have some sense of the time scale.”
In addition to his photography, Gary’s work includes publications on global warming: Earth Under Fire, How Global Warming is Changing the World; a website World View of Global Warming; and a book for young audiences co-authored with his friend and colleague the writer/ illustrator Lynne Cherry, How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Planet: Scientists and Kids Explore Global Warming, which won 15 awards including the American Association for the Advancement of Science Best Middle-School Science Book of the Year.
Cherry and Braasch founded Young Voices on Climate Change to champion youth solutions to the climate crisis through the “Young Voices for the Planet” film series, aired on public television stations via American Public Television.
With Gary Braasch’s passing, the world has lost one of its greatest advocates for nature and for humankind. We encourage you to read more about Gary via the links above and to watch his interview in the Essential Lens video Evidence. Most importantly, take the time to look and learn from his photographs and share the story that they tell with your colleagues and your students.