"LIVE IN THE SUNSHINE, SWIM THE SEA,
DRINK THE WILD AIR'S SALUBRITY."
—Ralph Waldo Emerson, from Merlin's Song,
The COnduct of LIfe (1860)
Philip Jessup’s long career as an environmental advocate led him to photography. While promoting solutions to reduce cities’ carbon emissions, he realized images could deepen public awareness of environmental threats to the planet.
Many photographers are now covering worldwide damage due to climate change and are doing that terrifying job very effectively. Phil is thus more interested in recording the natural beauty humanity can save . . . if we act in time. He also believes it is imperative to document what we might lose if solutions don’t pan out. We owe that to our grandchildren, he says. They should know what their forbears lost.
A 12-page Canadian Geographic Magazine photo essay, Secret Hollows, published in 2003 got him started. The article probed the tensions between wilderness and urbanization in Toronto’s ravines.
Winning the Royal Photographic Society's International Print Exhibition Bronze in 2005 provided a further lift. Toronto Community Foundation’s Vital People Award then sent Phil to Pond Inlet, where his Imperiled Landscapes project crystallized on a melting Baffin Bay ice floe.
Since then Phil has documented other wilderness landscapes and communities on the front line of climate change, most recently the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The sea may inundate these low-lying Pacific atolls in the coming decades, the end game for Marshallese society and culture.
Before photography, Phil served as the Executive Director of the Toronto Atmospheric Fund and co-founded several international networks of cities devoted to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. He keeps in touch with practical environmental solutions as a consultant to the World Bank and municipalities switching to LED streetlighting.
Phil has exhibited his work in Toronto, London, U.K., and Indiana. The Victoria and Albert Museum and international corporations such as Unilever have collected his images.