Suzi Eszterhas
Digital Camera World|December 2021
Graeme Green meets the wildlife photographer who goes to the ends of the Earth to capture her images of young animals
Graeme Green
Suzi Eszterhas has been “completely obsessed” with baby animals ever since she was a child. “It’s because of the vulnerability and innocence,” she says. “When these images touch people, it can soften their hearts and make them care about things they don’t necessarily care about.”

Getting people around the world to care about wildlife is an urgent mission, with many species currently facing the threat of extinction, and issues such as habitat loss, poaching and climate change creating a global biodiversity crisis. Eszterhas is one of a growing number of photographers using her work to give wildlife a better shot at a future.

Her pictures, which have appeared in globally renowned publications such as Time, The New York Times, Smithsonian and BBC Wildlife, focus on newborn animals and family life in the wild, including tigers, gorillas, bears, orangutans, whales and more. Many of her best images are collected together in her book New On Earth.

Not only does Eszterhas use her images to raise awareness on wildlife issues, but she’s actively involved in conservation. She’s a trustee of the Sloth Conservation Foundation and throughout her career has raised money through prints, book sales and photo tours for organisations including the Wildlife Conservation Network, Sumatran Orangutan Society, Cheetah Conservation Fund and Pandas International. “I’m 44 now, and in my lifetime, I’ve seen a lot of changes,” she explains. “We’re losing animals and wildlife. We are now left with 7,000 cheetahs in the world. It was different 20 years ago when I started photographing cheetahs, so it’s devastating for me to see these changes for so many species.

“But raising money has always been part of what I do. I didn’t want [to wait] until I was established in my career to start raising money for conservation. With every book project, I generally give at least 30 per cent to a nonprofit organisation. Over the years, I think we’ve raised over $200,000 for various organisations, which is something I’m really proud of.”

Beyond direct fundraising, Eszterhas believes photography can be a powerful tool for protecting and conserving wildlife, whether it’s a hard-hitting picture or a cute image. “Money is the one thing we can’t argue with. But using images to create awareness is also really powerful,” she says. “My first trip to see [the conservationist] Thai Van Nguyen at Save Vietnam’s Wildlife in Vietnam was eight years ago. At the time, very few people knew what a pangolin was, myself included. The images were incredibly powerful in letting people know what was a pangolin is, what is happening to pangolins, why they are disappearing…

“It’s one thing for people to read a headline about a container of pangolin scales being seized. It’s another thing to read it and to see a beautiful photo of a mother and baby pangolin in the wild. People can connect to that more.”

Jungle action

Based in California, Eszterhas’ work regularly takes her to wildlife hotspots around the world. Although her images often feel gentle, capturing intimate moments between mothers and infants, actually getting the photos can be a brutal experience. “In jungles, the habitat can be very unforgiving,” she says. “I’ve had bugs lay eggs in my feet, ticks in my nostrils, beetles in my nostrils… I’ve been chased by mambas... stuffthat’s just relentless.”

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Suzi Eszterhas

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