Photographer Brian Skerry calls his new National Geographic book, “Ocean Soul,” a love story – and he clearly means it. Seeing his photographs and listening to him speak, it’s obvious how deeply he cares about the oceans and their condition.
At a sold-out National Geographic Live event in DC last night to officially mark the book’s publication, Skerry showed photographs from around the world and shared some of his experiences working for National Geographic documenting some of the 98% of the world’s biomass that lives in the oceans.
And experiences he has certainly had, from living on the seafloor for seven days straight to being the first photojournalist allowed on a Canadian seal hunting boat in over a decade.
And even more striking was Skerry’s clear enthusiasm for the oceans and all the life they contain. He talked about ocean photography as peeling back layers of mystery. Surrounded by chaos, he said, his solution is to “focus on individual behavior” while striving to be an “artistic interpreter of all I see.”
Part of that interpretation is to tell a more complete story by showing not only the beauty of the oceans, but also the troubles they face. Photographing bluefin tuna, Skerry said his goal was to foster “wildlife appreciation” rather than just document seafood. About overfishing, he said, “The ocean’s not a grocery store, we can’t continue to take without expecting consequences.”
During the talk, Skerry showed photographs he has taken of harp seals, lemon sharks, right whales, leatherback sea turtles, and humboldt squid, in addition to reef fish, shrim, and tunicates.
He ended with images taken in marine reserves, where he said his goal is to show the abundance, diversity and resilience of the oceans when they are protected. “At every level, it seemed to be in harmony,” he said of one such area.