John Sherman’s photographic exhibition, Plight of the Condor, opened at High Country Conference Center in Flagstaff on October 5th through Jan 5, 2016. Sherman’s mission is to photograph all 76 condors currently living in the wild in Arizona. So far, he has photographed 62 members of this critically endangered population. His goal with the exhibition is to raise awareness about how lead poisoning from ingesting bullet fragments is the major cause of condor mortality and how if hunters simply switch from lead ammunition to non-lead ammunition the condor will be able to reestablish back into the wild and off the endangered species list.
With their nine-and-a-half foot wingspans, vividly-colored bald heads and powerful beaks that easily slice through cowhide, California Condors arouse awe. These are the biggest birds in North America and also one of the most perilously endangered species on the planet. The largest of the wild California Condor populations is our very own Northern Arizona population reintroduced to the Grand Canyon/Vermillion Cliffs area two decades ago. My mission is to photograph all 76 free-flying condors of the Arizona population. By displaying each of these birds as individuals, flying, preening, grappling, courting and being beautiful in a way only a condor could pull off, the public gets a chance to see not just a “poster child” of an endangered species, but an entire population. When one sees how few are in existence, it brings home the point of how the birth or death of a single condor can critically impact the survival of the species.
Whether condors survive or go extinct is entirely in our hands. The outcome will say a lot about us as a species. Lead poisoning causes over half of all wild condor deaths and is easily avoidable. Will we who live and recreate on the Colorado Plateau adopt the commonsense measures to eliminate lead in the food chain? By blending art through photography, natural history through informative captions, and conservation science through additional displays from the Peregrine Fund’s condor biologists, The Plight of the Condor seeks to raise awareness, empathy and action among us Arizonans who share the condor’s territory.
I’m a nature photographer based out of Flagstaff and recipient of the 2012 Flagstaff Photography Center Emerging Artist Award. Since volunteering to drive a lead-poisoned condor to a treatment facility, I’ve been deeply drawn to these majestic birds. So far I have photographed 62 members of the Northern Arizona population. I’m eager to meet the fourteen I have yet to photograph, not to mention three more wild-born chicks due to fledge any day now. A portfolio of my condor images is featured in the August 2015 Arizona Highways. The exhibit Plight of the Condor is currently on display at NAU’s High Country Conference Center. My great hope is to live to see California Condors removed from the Endangered Species List because they are thriving. If my efforts accelerate that process my spirit will soar. Viva el condor!