New Book Reveals Power of Conservation Photography

An encounter with an oceanic whitetip shark. (© Brian Skerry, photo courtesy of National Geographic)

The power of images is all around us. Whether viewed on billboards, the Internet or TV, in magazines, movies or books, most popular culture and communication are based on the visual; indeed, it is hard to advance any idea without a powerful image behind it.

Jacques Cousteau once said, “We only protect what we love, we only love what we understand, and we only understand what we are taught.” While I agree with this famous ocean explorer, I would add that we only understand what we see and, for the majority of people, seeing is believing. That is why photography is essential.

Brian Skerry — one of my dearest friends and colleagues, and one of the world’s most talented ocean journalists — has just published an anthology of his life’s work to date. His book, “Ocean Soul,” is a collection of some of his most striking photographs, and demonstrates just how powerful images can be.

National Geographic and Conservation International (CI) are working together to promote this incredible body of work, and we are extremely fortunate to have such a friend in Brian. Over the years he has donated countless images to CI which have helped to enhance our conservation awareness efforts. (Check out the video below to learn about one of Brian’s most harrowing experiences in the water — filming Humboldt squid at night.)

Brian is truly dedicated to his work and spends months preparing for an assignment, studying every aspect of the story’s background. Only then will he look to the tools of his trade, what he needs to create images that convey the story: dozens of cameras, silver and black underwater housings, underwater lights with names like Hydrargyrum medium-arc iodide, filters, wet suits, dry suits, submarines, Remotely Operated Vehicles, ultralights, balloons, emergency locating devices, and gear of all kinds.

Believe me, it is hard enough to tell a good story, and even harder to get a picture of it. To do it all underwater with a journalist’s precision and accuracy is truly amazing. Brian has a rare ability to make pictures that interpret subjects in new ways — pictures that show far more than simply where and what was happening, and encompass the true nature of the moment: the ethereal, almost spiritual, aspect of his subject.

Greg Stone (© CI/Photo by Will Turner)

The ocean needs us now more than ever, and Brian Skerry helps us understand that fact through his work which can be seen in the pages of “Ocean Soul.” Please join me in congratulating Brian on this incredible achievement; we can’t wait for his next book!

Greg Stone is CI’s chief scientist for oceans.



  2. Bruce Farnsworth says

    Nice piece Greg! Those squid look like a kick in the pants. I’m interested to see how the bioluminescence translates with the higher ISO’s out there today.

    Keep up the great work!

    Best, Bruce

  3. Alexandra Barron says

    Looks fab, good job.

    FYI that quote is actually from Baba Dioum (“In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught”) – Jacques Cousteaux may have said it, but he was quoting (paraphrasing) Dioum.

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