First Steps – Joe Zammit Lucia

 pongotitle1The environmental art of Joe Zammit Lucia

by Maggie Terlecki

Joe Zammit-Lucia, a wonderfully gifted conceptual photographer, promotes respect for all living things including animals through his art.

Editor’s note: I’ve known Joe now, for about 8 years. He is an artist, author, scholar and commentator.  Previously a practicing physician, industry executive, management consultant and an entrepreneur who founded an international company that remains, today, the global market leader in its field,  Joe donates all profits from his work to environmental causes.

Imagine aliens arriving on earth and simply grabbing your house and taking it away because they need room to park their spaceships.  Try to think how it would feel if they just killed a few of us off to make themselves pretty trophies to put on their walls. What if they pulled our teeth because they believed wearing a necklace of human teeth would make them more virile. Try to conceive of something that is seemingly innocuous such as photography.


What would it be like if they took pictures of us, as specimens. Ms. Alien to her friend: “this is a female Caucasian of Belgian and French descent and this one is of a male Asian of Chinese descent.  We’ve just got a couple of them and tagged them so that we can study how they spend their days.”

You would be horrified to be objectified and treated as if you were here only for the benefit of the aliens and not have any rights as a living entity on this planet.

Sadly, this is exactly how we treat the non-human animals on this planet. Destroying habitats, illegally hunting, creating rampant pollution are among the leading ways that we, humans, have brought many animals to the point of not only being in danger of but of becoming extinct.


Joe believes that by objectifying animals, we have found a way to treat them impersonally and we no longer care about the consequences to these animals as long as there is a benefit to us.

Joe is on a mission, a mission to communicate to us the admirable nobility of our co-inhabitants on this planet. Rejecting traditional nature photography, Joe does not take photos that are simply documents of different species in their natural environments – an approach he believes further sets them apart. Instead, he treats animals on an equal footing with humans and takes studio-type portraits which force us to confront the raw honesty in
their eyes and see that they, although very different from us, are also, each very unique.


You will not find any cute or funny images of animals in this collection; not that animals cannot do funny things (just like kids – and grown ups – do), but he doesn’t want to use them as objects to entertain us and make us feel superior. Instead, he celebrates their individuality. He confronts us with the reality that they are a mystery; that we cannot understand how they feel or how they think. Animals are not inferior to us and they deserve our respect.


Joe does not preach about how badly we have damaged our world or call us arrogant megalomaniacs. Instead, Joe reaches into our souls with captivating imagery projecting human thoughts and feelings onto the subjects as a way of communicating that we can continue to share the world with others if only we can care and respect non-human animals for the wondrous creatures that they are.


Using the medium of photography, Joe explores issues relating to environmental and species conservation.  One of the world’s leading animal portrait artists, he has developed a unique way to use animal portraiture to explore issues related to animal individuality and human-animal relations.

 The underlying disease is our assumed superiority and utter dominion over all natural resources and all other creatures. Only when we can make a slight dent in our assumption can we really say that we have started to cure the disease rather than merely palliate the symptoms of an incurable illness; an illness ultimately fatal to our own species as well as every other. ~J.Zammit Lucia


His work has been presented in major public forums such as the United Nations Headquarters in New York, the National Museum of Natural History in Paris and in private galleries in Europe and the USA.  His images were exhibited in Venezia Immagine on the occasion of the Venice Biennale in 2007.

In 2009 his work was the subject of an exhibit on species conservation at the United Nations Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

In spring of 2011, he showed at Casa de la Ciencia at the Pabellon de Peru, Seville, Spain.


Winner of the Honor of Distinction in the Nature Category of the prestigious International Masters Cup, awarded second place in the International Photography Awards, a fourth place Honorable Mention and multiple nominations in the International Black and White Spider Awards, his work has appeared in international fine art photography and environmental magazines and is featured in “The World’s Greatest Black and White Photography”.

Dr Zammit-Lucia’s images were selected for the visual branding of the World Conservation Congress in Barcelona in October 2008 and as the cover image for IUCN’s 2008 Red List of Endangered Species.

Please visit his website here: Joe Zammit Lucia

His book can be purchased here: First Steps

Joe has also completed a body of work focusing on the people of New Orleans.  City of Color, Living Life in New Orleans. This book can be purchased here: City of Color, Living Life in New Orleans

Working at the intersection of disciplines to explore questions around growth, sustainability and society. Joe is interested in the politics of how we co-exist within the biosphere on which we all depend.
President of – a factory of ideas dedicated to breaking out of conventional thinking in socio-environmental debate.
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First Steps – Joe Zammit Lucia by Maggie Terlecki is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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