"A photograph is usually looked at," Ansel Adams famously wrote, "seldom looked into." In spite of this insight—or perhaps inspired by it—photographers around the world are working to create compelling images that demand to be looked at and, indeed, "into."
These pioneering photographers accomplish this by combining their art with activism and in the process, create photography with a purpose.
Have a look at these 10 showcases below offering 164 photos that set out to raise your awareness of issues affecting our world. Then check out our new on-going feature, Photos With a Purpose.
Photographer Gets Within Inches of Whales: Bryant Austin is a photographer with a big goal: to save whales by photographing them. But it's not just photographing them—it is all in how he displays his work. Austin is the first photographer to display life-sized high resolution images of whales, and they have an equally big purpose.
Amazing and Devastating Photos of the Gulf Oil Spill: Since April 20, 2010, an epic environmental tragedy has been unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico. After an explosion rocked the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform, a geyser of oil began spewing into the Gulf. Weeks and months later, the disaster has become the worst in United States history—and the images of destruction, from the landscape to the wildlife to the human cost, continue to get worse.
An Ocean of Plastic...In Birds' Guts: Chris Jordan's work attempts to place the impact of consumerism in perspective. For his latest project, he traveled to the Midway Islands, near the heart of the Pacific Trash Gyre, to photograph the decomposed bodies of chicks that have been fed plastic litter by confused parents.
The Art of Natural History: Richard Barnes Breaks Out of the Museum: Through Richard Barnes' lens, the exhibits in natural history museums become powerful comments on our understanding, our valuation, and our relationship with the natural world.
Yann Arthus Bertrand's Nature Photography: Inspired by "An Inconvenient Truth," French photographer Yann Arthus Bertrand wanted to use his art to inspire more people to take action on behalf of the planet. The result: An incredible collection of photographs.
Do PETA's Posters Hide the Meat of the Issue?: PETA's campaigns have a noble purpose—decreasing animal cruelty, supporting animal rights—but do their naked-lady ads share one major flaw?
Brick by Brick: Endangered Species Captured in Lego: Sean Kenney is a LEGO artist whose unique sculptures and portraits are made entirely from the locking plastic bricks. His latest work, an exhibit for the Philadelphia Zoo, captures 34 critically endangered animals using more than 259,450 LEGO bricks.
'Pretty' Pollution Photos Show Depths of Minnesota Lake's Environmental Distress: Lifelong Minnesota resident Mary Taffe turned to art to document the algae blooms and other pollution that has been increasingly prominent in nearby Big Stone Lake over the past four years.
The Coolest Environmental Advertising: This advertising provocatively depicts the tragic consequences of our choices—and offers insights for a brighter future.
From an Extinct Rabbit to a Dwindling Beetle: Endangered Animal Portraits by Joel Sartore: Photographer Joel Sartore spends his days helping endangered and extinct species get ready for their closeups: patiently herding beetles, waiting for a single fly to land, approaching a wolf from just the right angle. The result: An incredible body of nature photography.
Do you know a purpose-driven photographer whose work needs to be seen? Let us know in the comments or send us an email at email@example.com
Video With a Purpose: