Stewardship and Photography, can you make a difference?


I’ve always felt that being a photographer carries with it an obligation for stewardship. This is especially true for photographers who gravitate to wildlife and landscape photography. The general nature of what we do begs for stewardship in one form or another. Almost everything we photograph is under some kind of environmental pressure. If you photograph beaches, shoreline, or mountains and foliage then, most likely, they are under pressure from development.

Salt Marsh recovery project.

Jacob's Point salt marsh

Rivers and bays are under pressure from pollution of many kinds-from waste water to storm water runoff, to discharge from the many boats that ply these waterways. Wildlife is under pressure on many fronts. Recently, here in Narragansett Bay, we were faced with the prospect of a LNG terminal in the upper NE corner of the bay, in Fall River.

Almost everyone, including governors, senators, and local officials from 2 states, The Coast Guard, Save The Bay, Audubon, local fishing and boating industry, plus many more agencies came out against this proposed terminal. It would not benefit anyone except the business that proposed it. Despite all the opposition it would not go away and it took about 10 years for them to abandon the project.

Winter Sunset on the Warren River, Warren RI

Spectacular winter sunset

So what could we lowly photographers do to help out any of these causes that we feel strongly about? How can we help them fight large corporations and developers who are constantly trying to infringe on fragile ecosystems or wildlife habitats? You can do what I’ve been doing for the last 7 or 8 years…lend them your photography.

You can write a 10 page paper on why something shouldn’t happen or what the ramifications are and chances are not many people will read it. However, add a striking picture of the area in jeopardy, or a mother duck with ducklings, or an osprey fishing, and it becomes a story with a victim, one they can see, something they can relate to-visually. It becomes a story with a heart. Suddenly people can see what they will lose. You are showing them that if we don’t fight this event then we will lose whatever is depicted in the photograph- forever.

Roosting Eastern Screech Owl

A Gray Morph Eastern Screech Owl soaks up the sun on a winter day.

I can guarantee you won’t get rich doing this, at least not monetarily. All grassroots agencies are normally operating on a shoestring budget. There is, however, an immense amount of satisfaction in seeing one of your photographs leading the charge against raiders on our environment. So how do you get involved? I did it by first showing my work at the Audubon EEC here in Bristol RI.

I did an art show with a lot of bird photos at the EEC and that led to them asking if they could use some of the shots on brochures and publications. In the fall of 2010 as a member of our town‘s Conservation Commission, I attended a dedication of a restored salt marsh. There were several agencies present including Save The Bay.

I politely let the Save The Bay Reps. know that I would let them use any of my pictures I had shot around the marsh for promotional purposes if they wanted. I directed them to my website and they selected several egret pictures which became the backdrop for 4 interpretive signs that are now being installed at the 4 restoration sites. The only thing I ask of them is if they use my picture they credit me.

2 Bucks with racks survey the field for danger.

Matching bucks in a field.

Even though I have my photography for sale and do a modest business on selling my work I will continue to support agencies that lead the way when it comes to protecting our environment and the wildlife that inhabits it. In doing so, in a sense, I am protecting my photography business also. After all, if we lose the very essence of what we photograph then we lose ourselves also.


Butch Lombardi
East Bay images website

This entry was posted in Animals, Conservation, Scenic New England and tagged , , , , , , , , , , .


  1. Linda Baird-White January 3, 2012 at 20:06 #

    Excellent article Butch.
    We need more people like you in this world.

  2. Jane January 4, 2012 at 09:49 #

    A picture is worth a thousand words and I commend you for this. I believe lowly photographers can make a difference. I love your article. You have many talents my friend.

  3. Barbara Maggiacomo January 4, 2012 at 13:27 #

    Excellent article Butch, well said.

  4. Judith Howcroft May 13, 2012 at 07:20 #

    A good article that I can relate to. I have been using my photography to fight the Northern Pass. This corporation is now involved in a huge land grab in northern NH and we fear they have more in mind than power lines. Thank You

    • Butch Lombardi May 13, 2012 at 10:26 #

      Judy: I first became aware of the Northern Pass last fall when Judy and I were shooting in the area around Lake Katherine. When I got home I started reading up on it. I told Jeff that we (The Guild) should come out against it. It will cut a swarth through some of the best scenery around. The power company admits we don’t need it but might in the future so lets destroy the landscape now.