It’s a real pleasure for me to be able to contribute a blog post to Conservation International. And I am grateful for their continued support and the support they provided for my new book, “Ocean Soul,” which is officially released today!
The title for this book came to me years ago as I reflected on what it is I photograph. When asked what my favorite subjects are, I have a hard time answering since I am fascinated by all animals and ecosystems underwater. Some photographers specialize in big animals or in macro creatures, some only in warm waters while others prefer the cold. I have never been able to pick an absolute favorite because I truly love it all.
What I enjoy more than anything, however, is making pictures that evoke the true essence of an animal. I often feel a life force emanating from creatures I photograph, an energy that is tangible and that defines an individual animal. I try to use that energy to make pictures that are more than simply a record, wanting instead to preserve a moment in time, an instant when a creature’s spirit is captured in a blend of light, gesture and grace.
“Ocean Soul” describes this life force that exists within animals and places in the sea, and which emanates from the ocean as a whole. And I suppose it is also how I see myself, as an ocean soul, having spent the majority of my life chasing that dream and being drawn by that tidal force of the sea.
Like most photographers, my interest has always been to make beautiful pictures of subjects that inspire me. The creative process has been my strongest motivator, wanting to spend time in nature and interpret what was before my eyes with a camera. My greatest joy comes from producing photographs that celebrate nature and reveal magical, natural moments. But there has been an evolution in my work over the years, a path that has led from striving only to capture nature’s beauty to a journalistic focus on the many threats facing our oceans and marine wildlife as well.
We live on a water planet, yet I wonder how many of us actually see it that way? Water covers over three quarters of the planet’s surface and represents nearly 98 percent of its livable volume; the majority of the air we breathe comes from the sea.
Knowing this, a logical conclusion would be that mankind must do everything possible to protect this vital component of our home, when clearly our own survival depends on it. Instead we have treated our precious waters like a sewer, a place to throw chemicals and trash. We have removed wildlife from the sea for centuries and destroyed entire ecosystems while conserving very little.
I have always believed that the sea suffers the fate of being regarded as vast and deep with endless resources and bounty, yet I know that the reality is far different. She is resilient indeed, but will die a death from a thousand cuts unless we take bold steps to ensure her protection.
I have been blessed to realize my dream of becoming an underwater photojournalist, but with that feel an obligation and sense of urgency to share what I have seen with others. It would be fun to pursue only celebratory pictures of nature, but it is because of my love for the sea that I photograph the disturbing scenes as well, in hopes of raising awareness. Photography can be a powerful instrument for change and photojournalists can tell stories that make a difference.
Within this book are elements of all that I have seen and learned in more than three decades spent exploring the sea: my passion and dreams, the life force of the sea and the wounds she suffers. Together they represent “Ocean Soul.”
Brian Skerry is an underwater photojournalist who has donated countless images to CI over the years, which have helped to enhance our conservation awareness efforts.