Two weeks before he graduated from the University of Wyoming, Joe Riis was awarded a Young Explorer Grant by the National Geographic Society. The South Dakota native spent the next 15 months with camera in hand, tracking 300 pronghorn antelope across western Wyoming´s backcountry.
Riis' acclaimed "Pronghorn Passage" photography project chronicles one herd's yearly journey from Grand Teton National Park across the Gros Ventre Mountains to the Red Desert. Their 170-mile route crosses rivers and ranches, hilltops and highways, and represents the third-longest overland mammal migration on earth.
Using motion-triggered cameras, Riis captured his hoofed subjects winding along mountain paths and swimming the Green River en masse. But perhaps his most moving photos document the encroachment of humans on the ancient migration corridor. Images of pronghorn bounding in front of startled motorists, squeezing under barbed-wire fences, and gazing as if bemused at semi trucks underscore the delicate and evershifting balance between the human and natural worlds.
Joe Riis is a regular contributor to National Geographic magazine. His project "Pronghorn Passage" was funded in part by the Larsh Bristol Photojournalism Fellowship, a $5,000 award from UW's communication and journalism department.