water & art, water culture

Brian Skerry

1 Comment 27 August 2010

Brian Skerry

When looking at the ocean, most of us feel a sentiment of fascination mixed with a glimpse of fear and reverence due to the infinite dimension of a mysterious aquatic world with strange looking creatures. Brian Skerry knows the bottom of the sea better than anyone else he surely isn’t afraid to stand next to a gigantic blue whale while working his magic behind the lenses of a camera. As an award wining photographer, he illustrates the beautiful aesthetic and colors of sea creatures, but is also working hard in order to raise awareness about the sea and issues like water pollution. With his creative photo essays Skerry captures the mysterious beauties of the sea while also illustration the consequences of environmental problems. From whales to corals without forgetting shipwrecks, Skerry has an astonishing ability to capture just about every facet of the ocean life.  Since 1998, this photojournalist has been a great contribution for the National Geographic magazine.

Born in Milford, Massachusetts in 1962, this young man graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in media and communication from Worcester College. He had a variety of different jobs for years, while cultivating his passion for underwater photography during his free time. Diving for more than 30 years, Brian Skerry managed to transform his passion for the sea life into his full time job. Today he is famous for having managed to capture great shots of right whales as he was standing underwater next to the enormous animal. In an interview for National Geographic he confesses that the pictures he shot of the right whales are probably his favorite since “to see a whale that big in perspective with a human being was cool” (Source: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/10/right-whales/skerry-field-notes). Cool?!! Yes, I bet your are just as amazed as I am by his nonchalance when it comes to diving into water with a 45 foot subject. When asked if he has ever felt in danger by being around them he responds by saying: “when the whales are three feet or four feet away from you, one gentle lift on its head, and it would be like being hit by a sidewalk. That never happened. They were just highly curious and wanted to know what I was about” (Source: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/10/right-whales/skerry-field-notes)/ . His gorgeous photographs and honest statements make the public develop a brand new appreciation for sea creatures that often are misleadingly portrayed as scary or aggressive towards humans.  The photographer reminds us of the difficulty to shoot a subject of such an imposing proportion, with whales it is practically impossible to use strobees in order to light them. For this reason he had to shoot at a very high speed, ISOs of 800 which impacted on the resolution of the shot. Despite technical and human difficulties, his shots manage to convey a human and kind aspect to a massive whale that is swimming in a vivid light blue ocean.

According to his official website, Skerry has spent more than 10 000 hours underwater over the course of his career; and “while on assignment he has lived on the bottom of the sea, spent months aboard fishing boats and traveled in everything from snowmobiles to canoes to the Goodyear Blimp to get the picture” (Source: http://www.brianskerry.com/). Covering different issues from the decrease in the world’s fishery, to the sharks of the Bahamas, without forgetting the harp seal’s struggle to survive in frozen waters. It is important to remember that is artist is also member of the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP), an non-profit organization that gathers artists from around the world with the scope of promoting environmental and cultural conservation through the medium of ethical photography. Part of their mission is to “replace environmental indifference with a new culture of stewardship and passion for our beautiful planet” (Source: http://www.ilcp.com/?cid=22).  Part of their ethic principles comprises a careful use of images of animals in captivity: those shots should never ever be represented as wild and not pictures should be taken of animals in any sort of entertainment institutions that exploits animals for profits. With great respect and integrity, Skerry stays true to his values and the ones of ILCP, holding a great attention in order to leave intact and unaltered the natural environments where he takes his gorgeous shots.

Brian Skerry understands the urgent need to save the wildlife and the oceans before it is too late. He believes that visual arts and photography can perhaps be a less conventional but yet more efficient way to get the message across. With his incredible shots he manages to captures the ocean’s majestic glory that often hides a veil of fragility.



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  1. Alexis says:

    whales are such beautiful innocent creatures! If you want to help and make a difference you should check out the Stop whaling site at http://blog.stopwhaling.org/


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