A six-month stint turned into a two-year adventure, taking them from the coast of California to the remote edges of Patagonia.
“We were very much deep and dirty in nature, and really creating this love affair with the natural world through this process,” Gibson tells me.
Road tripping through Latin America, surfing, trekking and exploring along the way, the pair discovered some of the most captivating natural landscapes in the world: lush tropical vistas, rugged coastlines, deep calderas and snow-capped mountains. Amateur photography naturally became a part of life on the road, and when they eventually met Minnie Picardo, the trio decided to combine their love of nature and photography with a novel business idea.
They launched URTH, a camera accessory brand manufacturing low impact products, in 2015. The brand gained international attention and a high-res following with their creative approach to photography tools, but Gibson says the success of their endeavours goes beyond product innovation.
“A big ethos of URTH is to use photography and film as a means of conservation,” Gibson says. Behind the low impact lens filters, mount adapters and accessories, there’s a distinct belief that through sharing creative interpretations and pictures of the planet, we can propel ourselves toward a greener future.
Their overarching concern for the planet is the climate crisis, and they believe their camera equipment can be part of the solution. URTH has eradicated virgin plastics from their products and use recycled materials in their accessories where possible. The use of premium quality materials like Japanese and German coated optical glass and hardened magnalium (a strong alloy used in aircraft parts) means each camera accessory has a lifetime guarantee. They’ve also spent the last six months analysing the life cycle of each product to measure its impact: “Understanding what our impact is and fleshing that out allows us to try and create solutions,” Gibson says.
For every URTH product sold, five trees are planted to offset the carbon impact of manufacturing, which Gibson describes as “the most tangible thing we [as a business] do for the planet”. Through a partnership with Eden Reforestation Projects, URTH has helped fund reforestation projects in Haiti, Indonesia, Madagascar, Mozambique and Nepal, planting over four million trees so far.
Can time behind the lens solve the climate crisis? Not quite. But URTH reminds us that photographs and imagery cross the boundaries of language; offering a visual commentary that is emotive, subjective and powerful. What Gibson hopes is that URTH’s tools foster a community of creatives who evoke enough love and emotion in their images to inspire others to protect our planet for future generations – which is absolutely possible.
“Pretty much any part of Patagonia is my top pick, whether it’s the Argentinian side or the Chilean side.”
“Chile has so many unbelievable forests and rivers, but another place I love is the Atacama Desert. It’s one of the driest places on earth, but is incredible for photography. It’s such a Mars-like landscape, you basically can’t take a bad photo.”
“I really like photographing Central Australia, particularly around Alice Springs. I’ve taken four-wheel drives out into the desert to shoot and I think it’s beautiful.”
“I personally like documentary-style photography and just photographing people in general, it’s my own personal photography passion. Cities, whether it’s Sydney, Melbourne, Tokyo or Berlin, are perfect for this.”
“Northern New South Wales is a really beautiful region. It’s not just the main town, you have panoramic coastal views and the hinterland to shoot too.”