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Behind the Lens: Nat Geo Photographer Sara Hylton on the Sea to Source: Ganges Expedition

National Geographic photographer Sara Hylton shares the most memorable images from her time in Bangladesh and India with the Sea to Source: Ganges expedition team.

The first Sea to Source: Ganges expedition set out in early May 2019 with the goal of studying plastic pollution in one of the world’s most iconic waterways — the Ganges River. The team was joined by highly acclaimed National Geographic photographer Sara Hylton, who documented the female-led team of international scientists and engineers, the waste they tracked, and the communities they encountered.

In late October 2019, the team will commence its second excursion along the Ganges River to study plastic pollution in the river system after the monsoon season. Sara will be joining the team again at several sites in India. The expedition is a critical component of National Geographic’s Planet of Plastic? initiative, which aims to reduce the amount of single-use plastic that reaches the ocean.

Leading up to the next leg of the expedition, we caught up with Sara to hear about the first seven weeks spent in Bangladesh and India from her perspective — behind the camera.

Photo by: Sara Hylton

“As an image maker, I tend to seek out beauty, whether it is found in deep, saturated colors, warm light that sparkles off of my lens, or the intimate connections between people and communities. When I was assigned to document an expedition around plastic, I had some trepidations about how I, someone drawn to beauty, would visually navigate such an issue. But just as I approach capturing people and captivating moments, I found myself being drawn to the stillness of plastic and the way it took up space, at times creating a life of its own. I've grown tremendously as a visual artist throughout this process, trying to find new and powerful ways of capturing something that is so vast and destructive.”

Photo by: Sara Hylton

“This image is subtle, but it is one of my most cherished because of what it represents. Pictured here is the expedition team at the last site in Harsil, Uttarakhand, India. The team had been on the go for nearly seven weeks with few breaks and under tough conditions. Every individual here requires a post of their own for their unique talents, quirks, dedication, and kindness, but together, in this team, I see immense hope, courage, and inspiration. I see a group of people who are changing our planet, and they are laughing and smiling while they do it!”

Follow the next stage of the expedition on social media with #ExpeditionPlastic and online at, and learn more about what National Geographic is doing to tackle the world’s plastic waste crisis.

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