“My career as a photojournalist has taken me to unseen corners of the
earth, including the heights of the Andes, the heart of the Amazon, and
most recently, the edge of Africa. While the nature of each place is
amazing in its own way, no place inspires me more than the Gulf Coast of
Carlton Ward Jr.
Clearwater is fast becoming an overdeveloped suburban sprawl with too much traffic and too little focus on the beauty of our natural environment. It is interesting to find a young man from our area, who has used his appreciation for our quickly disappearing ecosystem on the West Coast of Florida, to study an area of the world still left in its natural state. In listening to Carlton Ward speak about his book, “The Edge of Africa,” one can only be inspired to protect sensitive habitats, both here in Clearwater, and throughout the world.
Carlton, a Clearwater native, is a graduate of Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa and majored in Biology at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. He developed an initial interest in photography as a way to better document his scientific projects. After a brief internship at the National Museum of Natural History, Ward enrolled in a Master’s program at the University of Florida and began to take photography classes.
Carlton Ward spent seven months along the coastline, and in the inland waters, and then the tropical rain forests of Gabon, a tiny African nation just to the north of the Republic of Congo. Though an independent nation since 1960, it has continued to hold the interest of the West because of its large deposits of petroleum. The Gabon Biodiversity Program, launched as a joint venture between The Smithsonian Institute, Shell Gabon and the government of Gabon, has allowed the scientific documentation of phenomenal diversity never before studied by Western man.
The Smithsonian hired Ward to document over 400 species of animals and plants throughout the region. Many species he photographed for the first time and several were new to science. Beyond the value for scientific record, Ward recognized the power of photographs to influence public perceptions and inspire change. And this knowledge led him to the publication of his book entitled, “The Edge of Africa.”
For this publication Ward sought pictures that captured the essence of the subjects in a way that would engage readers and help carry the science-based message to leaders around the world, as well as promote environmental education in Gabon. Five thousand copies of “The Edge of Africa” have been sent for distribution in Gabon in hopes of raising environmental awareness within that country. “Unless they hear it from someone else,” explained Carlton, “many of the children in Gabon may not even know they have leopards in their own country.” Ward’s book also holds many beautiful photos of the natives of this area for, as Carlton readily acknowledges, “You can’t tell the story of an ecosystem without exploring the people still living very closely to the land.”
The initial printing of Ward’s book has sold-out, a credit to this very important work, but more, as well as a selection of photographic prints, will soon be available through The Packinghouse Gallery in Largo.
Carlton Ward has a home in Tampa, but hopes to spend the majority of his time traveling and capturing environmental habitats on film. For his most current project, Carlton has been photographing endangered desert elephants in Mali. He is working closely with researchers and conservationists from the WILD Foundation and Save the Elephants to raise awareness for this special herd-the last population of elephants in the Sahel of West Africa.
While at home Carlton turns his attention toward Florida conservation issues and is beginning a number of long-term projects aimed at investigating the state’s vanishing natural heritage and hopes to turn his camera into a tool to help protect it. Hopefully, Ward can bring the environmental knowledge and passion he has developed while traveling in Africa home to help us better understand and preserve the West Coast of Florida.
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