Ye Ye, a 16-year-old giant panda, lounges in a wild enclosure at a conservation center in Wolong Nature Reserve. Her name, whose characters represent Japan and China, celebrates the friendship between the two nations. Ye Ye’s cub Hua Yan (Pretty Girl) is being trained for release into the wild. Photo by Ami Vitale ’94.
Two Carolina alumnae turned their passion for photography into a nonprofit to raise money for global conservation causes.
Ami Vitale ’94 (top) and Eileen Mignoni ’09 (MA)
Photographers Ami Vitale ’94 and Eileen Mignoni ’09 (MA) have spent years documenting environmental issues and exploring the intersections of nature, culture, social justice and science all over the globe. Both have earned some of the most prominent press awards in the business. But they wanted to do more than report on the world’s problems; they wanted to do something about them.
Vitale, a writer, filmmaker, and photographer for National Geographic magazine, and Mignoni, who has worked with National Geographic, The New York Times, The Associated Press and other organizations, created Vital Impacts, a nonprofit that sells photographic prints to raise money for organizations that protect and preserve wildlife and the environment. Through fundraising campaigns and print sales, they have raised millions of dollars for organizations and communities doing grassroots conservation work.
Sixty percent of the proceeds from Vital Impacts’ sales go to conservation groups; forty percent goes directly to the photographer from each print sold.
“There’s a strong connection between visual imagery and empathy,” Vitale said. “When we see something, it helps us to connect our brains and hearts to feel love and compassion for other living beings. As photographers we have a huge opportunity to inform and influence change, but pressing the shutter is just the start.”
The following photographs were taken by Vitale and other photographers worldwide. You can buy a print or contribute at vitalimpacts.org.