Underwater photographer Jordi Chias, who won the ‘One Earth’ award at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year in 2010 with his image ‘Turtle in trouble’, reflects on photography’s essential role in promoting conservation.
Do you feel that photos like ‘Turtle in Trouble’ can benefit conservation?
Photography and film are a powerful tool for conservation. We – as people – only care about things we know, and for a great part of the human population seeing animals in the wild is absolutely out of reach. As a consequence they do not know about them. In our recent history, many species have become extinct before even being known.
Wildlife photography is an essential form of communicating about nature. In the case of my ‘Turtle in Trouble’ photo, showing a turtle totally entangled in an abandoned fishing net can send a clear message about how challenging life is for many animals living offshore – an environment that is usually out of reach for most of us.
What are the biggest challenges to taking a really memorable photo?
There are many pictures that have been very difficult to take. The difficulties can be very different ones: location remoteness, expense, subject rareness, logistics, etc. Often, the most challenging pictures are related to capturing animal behaviour. I have in mind many pictures which I’ve been trying to take for a long time and still haven’t captured, because many factors (including luck!) must coincide.
What inspired you to become a wildlife photographer?
I love wildlife, and ocean wildlife in particular. I also love photography, so I guess it was a natural thing to become wildlife photographer.
If you had one wish that could help marine turtles, what would it be and why?
I am not a turtle expert, but if you look at the most common dangers they face, these are longline hooks and plastics (they mistake plastic items for food, – particularly plastic bags – which they cannot digest and can get tangled in their stomach). So, more action should be taken to promote sustainable fishing techniques that could avoid turtle by-catch. And we all should avoid using plastics that often end their life at sea becoming death traps for turtles, dolphins, and many more.
There is another great problem: turtles are losing many nesting grounds. Almost all female turtles return to the beach where they were born, and we are destroying many coastal areas. For example, could you imagine a turtle trying to nest in a crowded beach in the Mediterranean shores of Spain, Italy or France? Many years ago it happened every year, now when it happens it becomes front page news.
Find out more about how you can help save turtles.
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