Nature 365 is a web documentary project that offers a poetic and authentic window into the natural world ….”I imagined this project to help raise awareness about the importance of the wilderness. Not only for ecological purposes, but also for poetical and spiritual matters.”
Here in our feature “Grateful Changemakers”, we celebrate programs and projects that serve as beacons of gratefulness. These efforts elevate the values of grateful living and illuminate their potential to transform both individuals and communities. Join us in appreciating the inspiring and catalyzing contribution these Changemakers offer to shaping a more grateful world.
Nature 365 is a web documentary project that offers a poetic and authentic window into the natural world with daily one-minute videos that are broadcast for free online. The video journal was filmed by Jim Brandenburg, who traveled the world as a National Geographic photographer and whose photographs have been published worldwide, winning a multitude of national and international awards. Director of the project Laurent Joffrion has worked with several film producers and television channels in France and abroad, with some of his films achieving worldwide recognition at national and international festivals. Laurent tells us more about how Nature 365 helps cultivate appreciation for the wilderness of the world.
What sparked the Nature 365 project?
For almost 20 years now, I have worked as a director. Thanks to a few professional assignments for Nikon Corporation, I met Jim Brandenburg.
One day, Jim came to me with a mysterious gift. He gave me some hard drives filled with video clips that no one had ever seen — a body of work over the course of several years documenting the northwoods and the great prairies of the midwestern United States, including his backyard near Ely, Minnesota, where he lives now, and Luverne, Minnesota where he was born. “It’s for you,” he said. “I don’t know what we can do with this, but perhaps we could work together?”
It felt like an honor and a great challenge.
So I reviewed all of the hours and hours of footage. And I found this remarkable body of work. I watched the seasons pass through the years. Spring blooms, fall colors, first snows, vast frozen horizons… I followed streams and canoed on preserved lakes; I wandered the great plains on the bisons’ footsteps. Deep in the forest, I witnessed how the wolf pack evolved and their puppies grew; I saw wild orchids, migrating birds gathering, prairie dogs… I marveled at air bubbles trapped under transparent ice, sparkling frost, and morning silhouettes hiding in the fog. I contemplated northern lights, heard the loons call, and slept under the stars…
Thinking about Jim’s previous successes, such as his published photography collections Chased By The Light, Looking for the Summer, and 93 Days of Spring, which are all built on the principle of one picture a day, I thought: Why don’t we present one daily video sequence, for the whole next year? 365 original clips which, as a set, would reveal the pertinence of Jim’s documentary work. A journal; a collection of short and personal stories; an innovative web documentary offering an authentic and poetic vision of nature.
For almost ten years, Jim filmed his natural environment as a private journal. This project, named Nature 365, was born from my connection with Jim, the discovery of his rare and precious video work, and from our common wish to share it with people.
What does Nature 365 hope to offer its viewers?
The promise for our audience is very simple, and we try to keep it sincere. The videos are remarkable: as they come from a long-term commitment; as they reflect a unique and poetic vision by Jim; and as they show the beauty and diversity of the great natural systems of the northern hemisphere, the boreal forest, and the great plains when their wilderness is preserved. I hope that each person who will here discover the great wilderness depicted in Jim’s work appreciates it as much as I do.
Jim writes, “I have tried to project the miracle as I saw it. A translation of the unknown gift we often don’t understand or even see. I hope the message was received and understood, better yet felt. For that I would be honored; the land and its creatures would be eternally thankful.”
Why do you think it’s important to make nature available to people in this way?
As most of us believe, and as many studies have shown, watching nature can be essential to our well-being. But many people, especially in western societies, do not live close to nature anymore and are no longer in touch with the wilderness. Watching nature has sometimes become a privilege: The fast-moving, mechanized lifestyle of today’s urban centers presents an illusion of distance and disconnection from the natural world, and our planet’s natural habitats are disappearing very quickly. I imagined this project to help raise awareness about the importance of the wilderness. Not only for ecological purposes, but also for poetical and spiritual matters.
How do you think Nature 365 brings gratitude to life?
Editing pictures of a bison herd in the prairie, of wolves crossing a frozen lake, or of northern lights is always something special — as these subjects must be for the program’s viewers to watch. But we also like to focus on less iconic creatures or much simpler moments. The sun rising, a chickadee waking up, grasses dancing in the wind. While gathering this footage, Jim paid attention to everything around him; not only the most spectacular animal or the wildest flower, but also the most common. We always try to make the ordinary look extraordinary, to say that every little piece is important. That’s the idea we share again and again.
Jim writes, “Nature has blessed me with its gifts of subtle but powerful teaching. One might even describe these moments I give back as a form of a small prayer; a mindful effort to pay homage to a wild and natural living land.”
What do you think moves people to engage with the offerings of Nature 365?
In the background of every video we broadcast, there is the sincere intention to express the basic yet most intriguing beauty of our natural heritage. Through every video, we try to show nature as simple as it is, with beautiful and sometimes hard moments. We try to show that it is right before our eyes as soon as one dares to watch. And the Nature365 videos together aim at showing the biotopes they illustrate as a whole. Because our environment is a whole. And we are part of it.
What do you see as the lasting impact of Nature 365?
I know that most of the program’s viewers are already sensitive to nature, aware of biodiversity issues, and maybe supportive of conservation projects. But if Nature 365 can help persuade one person, one person only, then it is worth doing it. We all need to change our behaviors in our gardens, in the forests, and on the seas to protect even the smallest beings.
What are some of the difficulties that the project has encountered and how are they addressed?
We produced this series at our own expense. Jim spent countless hours, days, weeks, and years filming nature in Minnesota. We spent countless hours, days, and weeks editing and publishing his footage. So one of the main difficulties is of course financial. All together, this is a huge project. We will try to produce the next version of the program differently, with partners and funds, if we can. But that’s part of how gratefulness takes shape in the project, perhaps: We did it without any real expectations. Even if we had them, our viewers’ feedback would have surpassed any such goals.
We get many messages from viewers worldwide acknowledging the purpose of the project. Hundreds of glowing comments have been received from an ever growing audience: people who would not want to miss our daily offering, teachers starting their class with our videos, hospitalized patients finding a moment of respite. All these messages compel us to continue on this artistic journey.
What inspires your commitment to Nature 365 and to the ways you choose to make change in the world?
The relationship that unites man with his environment definitely inspires me to tell stories and create emotional programs that highlight the value of biodiversity. It seems to me like art is a way for us to echo nature. The emotions we experience while contemplating the wilderness are very similar to the sensations we get while watching a moving piece of art. I have been lucky to meet many wildlife artists — photographers and filmmakers among them — and I know that some people out there are (even unconsciously) in need of wilderness. Nature 365 is just using new media and new technologies to create a gateway, so that the users do not forget and even perhaps discover these “primary emotions.”
How does Nature 365 plan to expand as a project?
The next version of the program will involve multiple contributors. Jim Brandenburg will of course be part of it, but other filmmakers worldwide will be invited to submit their footage so that we can deliver new moments of nature. The new series will be broadcast starting January 1, 2021. It will focus less on the wildlife of Minnesota, and instead will broaden the subject to the entire Earth ecosystem, without any notion of borders.
If you could encapsulate one inspiring message for people, what would that be?
Watch Nature because Nature watches us. Take care of Nature because Nature takes care of us.
To read more about the inspiring work of Nature 365, visit the website: Nature 365
To learn about other Grateful Changemakers, visit: Grateful Changemakers
Do you know of a project/program that elevates the values of grateful living? If so, we invite you to nominate them for our Grateful Changemaker article series.