Photography conference’s honored educator discusses work related to preserving biodiversity

October 29th, 2012 Comments Off on Photography conference’s honored educator discusses work related to preserving biodiversity

Dornith Doherty | View of the bay and airport from Svalbard Global Seed Vault (2010) Archival Pigment Photograph 30 x 148.5 inches

Dornith Doherty was chosen as this year’s honored educator for the Society for Photographic South Central (SPESC) conference hosted at Mississippi State from October 25-28.

A 2012 Guggenheim Fellow, Doherty is currently working to photograph various seed banks that have the goal of preserving biodiversity for the future.

Doherty said she got the notion from a professor early on that photographers are “trusted witnesses.”

“You go out into the world, and you bring back images to share with others,” she said.

The professor of photography at the University of North Texas is interested in seed preservation because her ancestors were affected by the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840s. She said it’s amazing that the failure of that one crop had such a huge impact on the world.

Doherty went on to explain the Holocene Extinction. She described work being done throughout the world to preserve seeds from extinction through seed banks.

The professor has spent the last several years visiting some of these seed banks to document and photograph the work.

She even got an exclusive invitation to visit the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which is open only two days a year to accept new seeds.  She braved extreme temperatures and the threat of polar bears to document work at the vault and fulfill her duty as a “trusted witness.”

Doherty said her project will likely wrap up this summer after some work related to the extinction of a type of bananas and a visit to document a species once thought extinct.

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