Why Oceans Matter: Underwater Photographer Brian Skerry at Bild


Water is essential to life on Earth. The health of our oceans—and its inhabitants—is equally crucial to maintaining Earth’s delicate balance. This is an apt takeaway from our exclusive chat with renowned underwater photographer and filmmaker Brian Skerry, as part of our coverage of B&H’s 50th Anniversary Bild Expo 2023.

We sat down with Skerry shortly before his presentation on the Bild Expo Main Stage to get the full scoop on his career arc, from a youthful fantasy of being an ocean explorer in the mold of Indiana Jones to his more recent work interpreting the culture of whales and other inhabitants of the deep.

We also delve into sobering concerns about the extreme geologic change Skerry has witnessed in the oceans over time. With such facts in mind, he describes the responsibility he feels to combine scientific research and powerful storytelling, so that we may better understand our relationship to nature, and to change our behaviors for the better.

Above photograph © Brian Skerry

Guests: Brian Skerry

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A curious Southern Right Whale stops to check out a diver in the waters…
A Harp Seal pup, about 14 days old, makes its first swim in the icy…
A young Sperm Whale calf swims in the waters off Dominica in the…
Yellow Surgeonfish in the waters off the Phoenix Islands
Portrait of Brian Skerry | © Steve De Neef
A Yellow Gobi makes its home inside an abandoned aluminum can on the…
A Shortfin Mako Shark off the west coast of the North Island of New…
Doomed by a gill net, a Thresher shark in Mexico's Gulf of California…
Spotted Dolphins in the waters around Bimini in the Bahamas

Episode Timeline:

  • 1:49: Brian Skerry’s start in photography and his deep connection to the ocean.
  • 4:33: Skerry’s insights about capturing both the aesthetic and scientific aspects of the underwater world, and his approach to documenting environmental issues as an artistic interpreter.
  • 9:05: The visual changes Skerry has witnessed within the marine environment since he first started diving.
  • 16:00: Skerry’s new story focused on the Gulf of Maine, and the question of sourcing past images from his archive for before and after comparison shots.
  • 18:52: The genesis of Skerry’s three-year project Secrets of the Whales, and the fascinating concept of whale culture.
  • 24:35: Photographing whales by free diving without scuba gear, which allows whales and other marine mammals to better acclimate to human presence.
  • 30:32: Episode Break
  • 31:36: The evolution of Skerry’s Nikon gear—from his original Nikonos to his current DSLRs to his expected transition to mirrorless Nikons, and the associated underwater housing, ports, and strobes.
  • 36:38: A few rare threatening moments in Skerry’s diving career, and his perspective on the demonization of sharks by the general public.
  • 43:51: Underwater visibility, Skerry’s tips for keeping your bearings when diving in murky waters, and the lenses that work best for underwater photography.
  • 48:07: Skerry’s bucket list for different sea creatures to photograph, future stories to tell, and the mysteries of the deep ocean.
  • 51:10: How Skerry’s passion for telling stories about the marine environment connects to selling his ideas to an organization, magazine, or picture editor.

Guest Bio

Brian Skerry is a photojournalist and film producer specializing in marine wildlife and underwater environments. Since 1998 he has been a contributing photographer to National Geographic magazine, covering stories on every continent and in nearly every ocean habitat, having photographed more than 30 features stories. Skerry is an 11-time award winner in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition and has also been recognized with awards from Pictures of the Year International, Nature’s Best and Communication Arts. In 2021 he received a Primetime Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Documentary Series for Secrets of the Whales, a series he created and produced for Disney that included a National Geographic magazine cover story and coffee table book.

Stay Connected:

Brian Skerry Website: https://brianskerry.com/
Brian Skerry Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brianskerry/
Brian Skerry X: https://www.twitter.com/brian_skerry/
Brian Skerry Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brian.skerry/
Brian Skerry - Secrets of the Whales: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/tv/shows/secrets-of-the-whales
Brian Skerry - The Sentient Sea Exhibit, Siena, Italy: https://festival.sienawards.com/en/brian-skerry-2/
Brian Skerry - Ocean Odyssey Exhibit, Paris, France: https://www.atelier-lumieres.com/en/ocean-odyssey

Host: Allan Weitz
Senior Creative Producer: Jill Waterman
Senior Producer: Mike Weinstein
Executive Producer: Shawn C Steiner