Today it is a disheartening truism that we are destroying the natural environment. Our planet is hurting, especially our marine environments, where pollution and loss of species is unignorably pronounced. Addressing these urgent issues, Sea Legacy aims to protect 20% of oceans by 2020—an admirable goal the non-profit organization seeks to achieve through disseminating powerful oceanic imagery.
Citing climate change as "the defining threat this generation must address without delay," Sea Legacy straddles the worlds of activism and visual art in order to produce impactful images and stories related to marine conservation advocacy. The newly created organization was founded by two of the world's most renowned conservation photographers, Cristina Mittermeier and Paul Nicklen, and its initiatives were announced through a feature exhibition at the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco during the Blue Ocean Film Festival & Conservation Summit this year. Sea Legacy works collaboratively with scientists and artists to document the oceanic wonders we stand to lose—and those we have already disrupted. Aquatic animals, seascapes, coastal villages, and underwater plant life are all photographed to breathtaking effect, inspiring viewers to care.
Mittermeier's background in photographing indigenous world cultures mixes with Nicklen's in documenting the polar regions of our melting planet, together resulting in tour de force images. Nicklen has shot extensively for National Geographic, producing scads of dazzling stories for the famous publication. Mittermeir also founded the International League of Conservation Photographers, which has helped transform conservation photography from a niche interest into a serious self-standing discipline. Combining a media-savvy, image-based approach with genuine concern for the natural world, the two are making visible a difference.
Working with a team of photographers, filmmakers, journalists, and media experts helps Sea Legacy disseminate vivid images from the grassroots level up to major international media outlets. They provide interested parties with communication tools including films, photographs, exhibits, lectures, and more that are designed to inspire a sense of urgency about climate change.
With a stated commitment to photographic excellence, Sea Legacy plans to carry out over 50 expeditions in the next 10 years. Their images are meant to be shared, so the maximum amount of people can feel their impact. The organization's Instagram page is nothing short of stunning, featuring mesmerizing images of baby fur seals, narwhals amidst icy enclaves, and green turtles eating seagrass, to name just a few.
The photographs are captivating and the subject matter is real. It is a challenge to view these images and not feel inspired—and that's the point. Looking to photographic examples such as the protester who stood in front of tanks in Tiananmen Square in 1989, one can plainly see how images can greatly affect cultural attitudes.
Not everyone has easy access to a national park or to unadulterated natural areas. Some of us grow up in concrete jungles, urban grid systems, or strip mall-laden suburbs, unaware of the treasures that exist in places like Antarctica or Norway. But given photography as an entry point into these worlds, we begin to see, care, and accept responsibility. And not a moment too soon, with the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference only two weeks away and with so much work to be done.
As yet it is uncertain whether Sea Legacy is in the process of sparking action to preserve global marine environments, or if they are documenting the final glimpses of places to be soon obliterated. Can photography help save our planet’s oceans? Let’s hope so.
Visit Sea Legacy's website to learn about how you can join the cause.