Frans Lanting has been hailed as one of the great nature photographers of our time. His influential work appears in books, magazines, and exhibitions around the world. Born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, he earned a master’s degree in economics then moved to the United States to study environmental planning. Soon after, he began photographing the natural world–and never turned back.
For three decades he has documented wildlife from the Amazon to Antarctica to promote understanding about the Earth and its natural history through images that convey a passion for nature and a sense of wonder about our living planet.
“Frans Lanting has set the standards for a whole generation of wildlife photographers,’’ according to the BBC. “Mr. Lanting’s photographs take creatures that have become ordinary and transform them into haunting new visions,” writes field biologist Dr. George Schaller in The New York Times. “As a chronicler of natural history today, Frans Lanting is a singular, extraordinary talent,” says Thomas Kennedy, former Director of Photography at National Geographic. “He has the mind of a scientist, the heart of a hunter, and the eyes of a poet.”
Lanting’s work is commissioned frequently by National Geographic, where he served as a Photographer-in-Residence. His assignments have ranged from a first look at the fabled bonobos of the Congo to a unique circumnavigation by sailboat of South Georgia Island in the subantarctic. In a remote part of the upper Amazon Basin, he spent weeks on platform towers to obtain rare tree-canopy views of wild macaws. He has lived for months with seabirds on isolated atolls in the Pacific Ocean, followed lions through the African night, and camped among giant tortoises inside a volcano in the Galápagos.
Lanting did pioneering work in Madagascar, where he documented wildlife and tribal traditions never photographed before. His celebrated coverage of the Okavango Delta in National Geographic has been credited with inspiring a surge of international interest in wildlife and conservation in Botswana. His photo essays about rainforest ecology in Borneo, emperor penguins in Antarctica, and the troubled fate of puffins in the North Atlantic, have been featured in publications around the world. Images from his year-long odyssey to assess global biodiversity at the turn of the millennium filled an issue of National Geographic. Lanting’s work also includes profiles of ecological hot spots from India to New Zealand, as well as features on the majesty and plight of albatrosses, the last of the Asiatic cheetahs in Iran, and a remarkable study of chimpanzees in Senegal that is shedding new light on human evolution.
In 2006, Lanting launched The LIFE Project, a lyrical interpretation of the history of life on Earth from the Big Bang to the present, as a book, an exhibition, an interactive website (www.LifeThroughTime.com), and a multimedia orchestral performance with music by Philip Glass. The symphonic version of LIFE premiered in Santa Cruz, California, in 2006 and has been touring North America and Europe ever since. ORIGINS, a new multimedia production based on LIFE, was performed in Geneva, Switzerland, in 2008, at the official ceremony to inaugurate CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, the largest machine ever built to study the origins of the universe. LIFE was performed at the Lincoln Center in New York in 2009 to launch the World Science Festival and to honor the distinguished biologist Dr. E. O. Wilson, and in 2012 Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands attended a performance at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam during a gala event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the World Wildlife Fund.
Lanting’s books have received awards and acclaim: “No one turns animals into art more completely than Frans Lanting,” writes The New Yorker. His books include Life: A Journey Through Time (2006), Jungles (2000), Penguin (1999), Living Planet (1999), Eye to Eye (1997), Bonobo (1997), Okavango: Africa’s Last Eden (1993, 2013), Forgotten Edens (1993), Madagascar, A World Out of Time (1990), Islands of the West (1986), and Feathers (1982). In 2000, his book Eye to Eye was named by National Public Radio-KQED as one of the 50 most influential nonfiction books of the 20th century.
Lanting has received many honors and awards for his work. In 2001 H.R.H. Prince Bernhard inducted him as a Knight in the Royal Order of the Golden Ark, the Netherlands’ highest conservation honor. In 2018, Lanting was honored with the Wildlife Photographer of the Year’s first Lifetime Achievement Award at the Natural History Museum in London. He has received top honors from World Press Photo, the title of BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year, and the Sierra Club’s Ansel Adams Award. Lanting has been honored as a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society in London and is a recipient of Sweden’s Lennart Nilsson Award. Three of his images were selected by his peers for a charity auction at Christie’s that featured the forty most important photographs of nature ever made.
Lanting’s mission is to use photography to help create leverage for conservation efforts ranging from local initiatives to global campaigns, through his publications, alliances, public appearances, and active support of environmental organizations. He serves as an Ambassador for the World Wildlife Fund Netherlands, and on the National Council of the World Wildlife Fund USA, as well as on the Chairman’s Council of Conservation International, and on the International Board of WildAid. Lanting is a Trustee of the Foundation Board of the University of California Santa Cruz, and is an honorary Director of the Friends of Long Marine Lab. He is a columnist for Outdoor Photographer, a co-founder of the North American Nature Photographers Association (NANPA), and a Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP). Frans Lanting makes his home in Santa Cruz, California, with his wife and partner, Chris Eckstrom, an editor, videographer, and former staff writer at National Geographic with whom he collaborates on fieldwork and publishing projects.