Ocean Soul is a love story. It is a story of discovery. It is a story of hope. The story begins when a boy who loves the sea attends an event with underwater photographers and has an epiphany: "I had always wanted to explore the oceans, but I now understood how I would do this. I would do it with a camera." With sheer determination, hard work, and a little bit of luck the boy, named Brian Skerry, realized his dream with more than 20 awe-inspiring articles for National Geographic magazine. Now, with Ocean Soul, he showcases his stunning photography and describes his adventurous life in a gripping portrait of the ocean as a place of beauty and mystery, a place in trouble, and ultimately, a place of hope that will rebound with the proper attention and care.
Brian Skerry is a photojournalist for National Geographic covering marine wildlife and underwater environments, whose award-winning images have also been featured in countless publications worldwide including People, Sports Illustrated, and Men's Journal. Skerry has lectured on photography and marine conservation at Harvard University, The National Press Club in Washington, DC and the Royal Geographical Society in London, among other venues. He is a regular guest on ABC's 20/20, TODAY, CBS Sunday Morning and Good Morning America.
Dr. Gregory Stone is Senior Vice President and Chief Scientist for Oceans with Conservation International. Since 2000, Dr. Stone has led the effort to create the world's largest marine protected area around the Phoenix Islands in the country of Kiribati and was named one of the National Geographic Society's Heroes of 2007 for this accomplishment.
For decades I have tried to peel back the layers of mystery surrounding many marine creatures, though most have held tightly to their secrets. One animal that keeps me pondering is the shark. Spellbound by these enigmatic animals since I first encountered them in New England, I never tire of watching their special blend of power and grace. Despite much observation, we know so little about their lives. I have photographed sharks in waters around the globe, and I always want more and yearn to peer deeper into their world. To feed my passion and to raise awareness, I developed a story about sharks for National Geographic magazine. Although there are great places in the world to see specific species, the Bahamas was a place where I could photograph many species in a variety of habitats that would provide a broader view of these animals. The Bahamas has mangrove nurseries, coral reefs, shallow sea grass beds, and deep oceanic trenches—all perfect ecosystems for sharks. Photographing multiple shark species in exquisite water was the assignment I had dreamed about from the start.
My goal was to make intimate pictures of sharks, but I didn’t want to perpetuate the myth of sharks as monsters. Rather, I wanted to portray them as an elegant and important part of each ecosystem in which they lived. The pictures needed to be respectful, so that old beliefs would fade and a new view might take hold. Early in this project I made a photograph that helped set the tone. Kneeling on the sea bottom in a place known as Tiger Beach, I watched a 12-foot- long female tiger shark cruise over the turtle grass with three silver bar jacks swimming in front of her nose. The shark ascended toward the surface, so I did the same, hoping to fill the frame with this regal animal but unsure of what might actually happen. As I drew near, I released the shutter just as the tiger shark turned. The result was an image that offers a gentle view of this apex predator, one in which shadows of tiny fish are painted on her face and her appearance is anything but threatening.