Capturing climate change, everyday moments

Greta Rybus, Photojournalist

Photojournalist Greta Rybus sees most clearly when she’s looking through the lens of her camera.

Photo by Greta Rybus

“I feel the most like myself when I’m taking photos,” she says. “It’s a total alignment with myself. I think that’s what we all seek, that feeling of rightness when we’re doing what we’re meant to do.”

With an impressive roster of clients—including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, Down East and Bon Appetit—and a vision for documenting global climate change, the Portland-based freelancer has struck a fine balance between commercial work and her passion projects.

Thoughtful and articulate, Rybus is an intrepid traveler who grew up in Idaho, graduated from the University of Montana and lived in Japan, the Netherlands and Germany before settling in Maine. She created the blog, Who I Met, as a way to start conversations with everyday people. It morphed into a popular three-year project, anchored by her arresting images of shop owners, dog walkers, ferry boat captains and make-up artists.

“I’m driven by a curiosity about the world and the way people live their lives,” she says. “Photography gives me access to people and places I wouldn’t see otherwise. “

Photo by Greta Rybus

Rybus, 30, spends a month each year documenting the impact of climate change in regions around the world. In Senegal, for example, her photos depict villagers coping with both rising seas and a diminished rainy season. Last year, she lived with Panama’s Guna Yala people, whose subsistence fishing and farming is threatened by changing weather patterns.

“I went fishing with a man named David, using an underwater camera while he dove and fished with a harpoon,” she says. “The experience of fishing with him was the ultimate in that feeling of alignment. He was seeking fish, and I was seeking images.”

This month, Rybus travels into the Arctic Circle to Lapland to photograph the climate changes there. In August, she plans to return to her home state of Idaho to document, among other things, the devastating summer wildfires.

Photo by Greta Rybus

Although self-doubt sometimes crops up (“I always want my images to be better”), Rybus sets the bar high to keep challenging herself. “I find inspiration from things outside of photography,” she says. “I like learning how painters use light in their work, how comedians find their unique voice, how writers build narratives.”

With a book coming out this fall, “Handcrafted Maine,” with author Katy Kelleher, it’s clear that Rybus has found her stride, both artistically and professionally.  

Lori Douglas Clark is a journalist, poet and community volunteer who lives with her family in Readfield.

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