The Man with a Camera and a Purpose
From Oregon, to Nepal, to Peru, and to the Philippines, Jason Houston has been all around the world photographing different environments. He specializes in stories related to environmental conservation and looks at the issues from the perspectives of many different cultures. He takes pictures not to show what the world looks like, but rather provoke feelings and prompt change with what may be happening on the other side of the world. For Houston, this has become his life goal. He has worked with many different organizations and researchers to help document key environmental problems that affect the world, yet aren’t followed by any actions to resolve them.
Houston explained that while graphs and facts about important world issues, like malnutrition or poverty, are showed to the public in an effort to make people care, they don’t carry much meaning. With the use of graphs specifically, Houston described how compassion is lost because no connection between the public and the one million impoverished people is made and, therefore, no action is often taken. He then explained how his photographs are meant to do the exact opposite. He has devoted his career to taking pictures and developing stories to establish relationships, something that he hopes will make a difference in the world.
Some of Houston’s projects included work with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) where he went to six study sites with high biodiversity to show and bring to life how beekeeping can help minimize the need for poaching animals or mining for gold. With this new source of income from harvesting honey, poachers and miners were able to modify their previous practices -- which were degrading the Earth -- and continue with this low-impact job that they enjoyed.
Focusing on human rights issues, Houston has also travelled to the Amazon to look at isolated tribes in the Manu region. He connected with a tribe that recently regained contact with the outside world and heard some of the emotional human rights stories. Many of these isolated tribes are found by missionaries or loggers and become enslaved. He documented these stories and labelled this journey as “one of the most amazing places I have ever been”.
Another project consisted of Houston training to be a firefighter with the Southern Rockies Wildland Fire Module. This allowed him to get an in-depth look at the prescribed fires that the team was working with, making for amazing photographs. This project and these pictures were used as a cover story for Nature Conservancy Magazine.
Through photographs and personal connections, Jason Houston has been able to effectively make environmental issues around the world more prevalent. His devotion to creating a difference and enacting change can be seen in every picture that he takes as well as every story associated with them. He finished his lecture by strongly proclaiming that “we need to make more art that matters and we need to make what matters more artful”.