Giancarlo Gallinoro: Winter, the Arctic, and the Resilience of Wildlife

Devoted conservationist at-heart, Giancarlo Gallinoro is a nature, wildlife, and adventure photographer whose work has taken him to what seems like the very brink of our Earth.

Capturing moments in the Arctic and the colder, remote areas of Europe, he uses his work to instill a sense of awe for this rapidly disappearing part of our natural world.

Despite the tough year that 2020 has been, conservation is still at the core of Giancarlo's work. Whether it's raising awareness for a declining Italian bear population, helping reforest trees in Iceland, or using his photographs to bring the otherworldly beauty of nature to us personally.

In our first interview of the new year, he shares a closer look behind his photo "A Red Glimpse on Ice," the projects he's currently working on, and an inspiring perspective on rewilding our planet.

What fascinates you so much about the Arctic? How did this love begin?

As far as I can remember, I have always been fascinated with exploration. Growing up I spent a lot of time outdoors, and I always found myself longing for winter and for the snow to cover everything in white. When I was about 8, I watched a documentary about Greenland. I was mind blown by the beauty of the scenery, the deep blue of the icebergs, and the resilience of wildlife. That was my “imprinting”. I wanted to see and know more, so I asked my parents for a photography book of the Arctic (internet still wasn’t a thing), and that got me hooked even more. Many years passed before I managed to visit the Arctic for the first time, and when that finally happened, I immediately felt a sense of belonging.
What I love about the Arctic is that it is one of the very few still relatively untouched and pristine environments that remain. Nature is so grandiose that it makes you feel small. But it can be unforgiving, which forces you to be present and always aware of your surroundings. Definitely my favourite place in the world (so far)!

Last year was a year with lots of ups and downs (to say the least). As a photographer, how has your way of working been impacted?

I think I speak for many adventure/nature photographers by saying that 2020 was a pretty rough year. Last February I started training as an Arctic guide in Svalbard, and I was meant to go back to complete the training and then spend the summer working on the island. That would have given me the chance to explore further and work on a more-in-depth photography project, but that, of course, didn’t happen unfortunately. A few other projects also got delayed or shortened. Luckily, I still managed to keep busy both in photography and nature conservation: I worked with an Italian NGO, Salviamo L’Orso (“Let’s Save the Bear”) on various projects in Central Italy and I spent about a month on the Isle of Mull, Scotland, working with GoneWest, a for-purpose tree planting company.

Why did you want to join Photography for Future?

My main goal as a photographer is to try and re-connect people with nature, to inspire awe in and love for it. However, I am always on the lookout for more concrete and immediate ways to support conservation and rewilding, whether that is through photography, or simply by going out and planting trees or joining a clean up and other initiatives. Photography for Future is an amazing opportunity, both for photographers donating their work and for people purchasing a print, to do something real and tangible for our planet. Planting trees, when done right, is a great tool to help mitigate climate change, but also to restore natural habitats, giving space back to nature!

Can you share with us one of your most memorable moments photographing?

What made it so special?

I think this is the perfect opportunity to tell you a bit more about the story behind the “A Red Glimpse on Ice” photo that I donated to Photography for Future. And why it means a lot to me.

Many years ago, as a kid, I had my first ever encounter with a wild fox while on a summer hike with my parents and friends in a remote area of Abruzzo, Italy. The fox stayed around for a while and I remember being over the moon. But little did I know that, in spite of countless days spent in the outdoors since, that would have remained the one and only encounter with a wild fox for quite a long time. Last January, I decided to go on a solo hike to that very same place. The chances I’d see a fox in the same place after so many years were quite low, but I was really hoping for it. And incredibly enough, the first thing I saw when I got there was a beautiful red fox standing out against the blue ice of the frozen lake. This one didn’t stick around for long, but it was long enough to put a smile on my face.

Are you currently working on anything that you’d like to share with us?

Just a few days ago, I started working again with Salviamo l’Orso in Central Italy, this time on a documentary directed by Constantinos Christou on the Marsican brown bear, a critically endangered subspecies of brown bear that only lives in this area. Fewer than 70 individuals remain, mainly because of human-wildlife conflict and the limited size of suitable habitat. But there is much more than just the Marsican brown bear! In fact, this area is an important biodiversity hotspot. The documentary aims to raise awareness about these matters.

Do you have any plans or ideas for this new year?

I do have some plans, but whether or not they will fall into place is very hard to tell at the moment. In May, I am meant to travel to Iceland. I first visited there in 2017, and I have wanted to go back since. The plan is to hike across the island, and then join in a reforestation program for a few weeks. Not many people know that, before humans settled on the island, about 30-40% of it used to be covered with birch trees. So that’s an exciting project!
After that, I am still hoping I’ll be able to get back on track with my plan from last year: go back to Svalbard, resume my photography project, and spend some months guiding and exploring. Fingers crossed!

We're incredibly thankful to Giancarlo for being part of this project and to you, for taking the time to read this. Both of Giancarlo's photographs "A Red Glimpse of Ice" and "At the Edge of the Earth" are for sale in our gallery and all the profits go directly towards planting trees. As the first interview of 2021, this year holds many exciting developments in store for our Gallery and our broader goal of reforestation.

You can find more of Giancarlo's work on his Instagram @giancarlogallinoro, or check his website (coming soon) here: