SLU news

Staffan Widstrand visits SLU

Published: 07 February 2020
Man next to a birch. Photo.

One of Sweden's most famous nature photographers visited SLU in Umeå yesterday to show photos from all parts of the world and to talk about what lies closest to his heart - nature conservation. Behind all the photos Staffan takes lies the idea of making us love nature. Because what we love, we care for and protect.

- I'm in love with being in nature, so I want to contribute to preserving it. For our own sake, but also for nature herself. Nature is a greatness greater than we humans are, we need to understand, says Staffan Widstrand.

Worldwide, more and more people live in cities and fewer in rural areas. How should people who live in the cities fall in love with nature when they have hardly seen it on postcards? Staffan wonders rhetorically. He believes that one of his most important missions, as of everyone else taking  photographs in nature, is to show what nature actually looks like so that as many people as possible understand that it is worthy of love.

- Nature has something powerful, wonderful, antique and timeless that is eternal. Or that should be eternal but which we can totally ruin and destroy...

Does not want to be neutral

Staffan Widstrand is not neutral when he is out taking photos, but there is always a nature conservation idea behind, or a respect for the natural heritage as he calls it.

- The word ‘natural heritage’ is incredibly important to me. Most people understand that we have a cultural heritage, but not that we also have a natural heritage. Many who would never think of tearing down the royal palace, or grinding down Picasso's paintings and using them as biofuels can happily imagine doing just that with our primeval forests, the last one to two percent that we have left, if it suits us right now.

Staffan Widstrand believes that we in Sweden are destroying our natural heritage of forests.

- It may be a nasty pill to swallow at SLU, but it is as simple as that. We are in the process of removing all our primeval forest. A forest is not just trees and, above all, it is not only one single tree species, all of the same age and from saplings grown in a green house. A forest is a complex ecological system with lots of different species of everything.

Wants to make people love nature

Getting people to respect and love nature is the red thread in everything Staffan does.

- If we humans and future generations do not love nature, then we will not stand up for it, we will not defend it, it will not be important to us, and then we will not decide in favor for it in terms of how we consume, build, live or drive. Nor in how we vote in political elections or what our various decisions lead to. But if you have a love relationship with nature, it is much more difficult to make completely wrong decisions. I think I can see this daily.


See the lecture on SLU Play

  • Hear Staffan Widstrand's lecture and see his photos on SLU Play.
  • Curious about Staffan Widstrand's project? You can find info at
  • During the afternoon, Staffan Widstrand had a workshop with students in the course "Human Dimensions of Fish and Wildlife Management". The students discussed how different nature photos convey a message about nature conservation and in what way these messages reach an audience. Staffan Widstrand contributed with his experience to communicate with photos to a broad audience. The workshop concluded that photos can have a great influence on how we experience and care about nature - but they cannot replace the impact that direct nature experiences have on our relationship with the world we live in.