Portland-based Gary Braasch was a climate hero. Since 2000 his central focus has been his project World View of Global Warming, which documents the effects of rapid climate change. Gary died at work on March 7th, snorkeling with his camera on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, documenting the bleaching of the coral. Articles and tributes to him from around the world are on the web, but since some of us active in 350PDX were fortunate enough to know Gary we want to offer our own tributes here too.
Whether you’ve heard of him before or not, you’ve seen his work in Time, LIFE, New York Times Magazine, Discover, Smithsonian, National Geographic, Scientific American and elsewhere. He was named a Nikon “Legend Behind the Lens.” You can check him and his work out here.
In recent years Gary was seized by the issue of climate change and changed his life. He began traveling the world with a mission to make climate change visual with his project World View of Global Warming, which documents the effects of rapid climate change. He would stand where another photographer had stood a century before and take a photo of a glacier to publish side-by-side with the earlier image, graphically and powerfully making clear what was (and is) happening as the carbon in our atmosphere creeps upward. OPB radio has a piece about this phase of his work here.
In October 2012, he chartered a plane to take the first photo of the Shell drilling rig Kulluk in the Arctic. That photo made the cover of the New York Times Magazine. Al Gore called his book “Earth Under Fire: How Global Warming is Changing the World” essential reading for every citizen.” His educational book for young readers (with Lynne Cherry), “How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate: Scientists and Kids Explore Global Warming” won twelve book awards.
Gary died on March 7th at work, snorkeling with his camera on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, documenting the bleaching of the coral. Articles and tributes to him from around the world are on the web. Our favorite tribute appeared in the New York Times blog but since some of us active in 350PDX were fortunate enough to know Gary we want to offer our own tributes here as well.
When I met Gary Braasch in the late 1980s, he was ‘just’ a nature photographer, making his living selling his striking photos to National Geographic and to anyone else who would buy them. He lived in Nehalem, on the Oregon Coast. I watched him organize the community when someone wanted to cut trees, whether the highway department wanting to sacrifice them for a passing lane on Highway 101 or a lumber company going after his town’s watershed. He was publishing books too, mostly of his own images but I remember one how-to on outdoor photography where I learned not to shoot in full sunlight. Gary just plain loved the natural world. You could even see that in his scrumptious flower garden. I watched him, back when he was still shooting film, take an entire role of one section in full bloom.
I met Gary in the 1980s too, when he was using his photographic skills to support efforts to protect Oregon’s high deserts, ancient forests and other natural wonders. The quality of his photos was unmatched, as was his determination to have them used to support conservation. The work was his livelihood and it was his passion. In recent years it was a great pleasure to see him still at it, with all his cheerful intensity, photographing the Summer Heat and ShellNo! actions here in Portland.
Gary Braasch will live on through his crucial ground-breaking work, a continuing asset in our struggle to educate the world about climate change. Our deepest condolences to his family and friends.
* Profile photo credited to Joan Rothlein
**Ski photo credited to Ed Cookman