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Rolex Perpetual Planet and the Power of Photographs

Speaking to WILD FOR LIFE, Paul Nicklen said he found photography through frustration. The Canadian photographer and marine biologist had grown tired of “turning his research into data for the spreadsheets” while watching the gap grow between the science he loved and the public’s knowledge of environmental issues. He shared, “It essentially cost me my job because I refused to put my camera down and it started to drive my colleagues nuts.”

Receiving more than 30 of the highest awards given to photographers in his field, including the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year and the prestigious World Press Photo for photojournalism, Nicklen uses his vivid images of our planet’s frontiers by expressing its raw beauty and fragility – with a focus on the oceans – to signal the threats confronting them. His work is celebrated for illuminating the link between biodiversity loss and climate change, and depicting how our precious ecosystems are being pushed to the brink of destruction.

A young snorkeler splashes into a colourful cacophony of curious reef fish off the Rangiroa Atoll. Cristina Mittermeier aims to show how human well-being is closely intertwined with ocean health.
A young snorkeler splashes into a colourful cacophony of curious reef fish off the Rangiroa Atoll. Cristina Mittermeier aims to show how human well-being is closely intertwined with ocean health.

Cristina Mittermeier and Paul Nicklen: The Power of Photographs

Growing up in landlocked Cuernavaca in Mexico, Cristina Mittermeier was also not a photographer by profession.Mittermeier was enthralled by the ocean when her dad first took her to the coast. Going on to study marine science, Mittermeier soon realised the critical challenges faced by the planet’s oceans.

As her interest and talents grew, Mittermeier began to discover how to use photography to communicate the issues of conservation that were so close to her heart. It was then she started “exploring the power of imagery”, deciding that visual storytelling would be a more impactful way to draw attention to the urgent need to protect the oceans, quickly becoming a pioneer in conservation photography with a multi-award-winning career. On an international level, she is keenly sought as a public speaker at key conferences such as the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon in 2022 and at forums such as the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Among her many accomplishments, she founded the International League of Conservation Photographers in 2005, providing a platform for photographers working on environmental issues and conservation efforts. Mittermeier met Nicklen in 2010, bonding over their mutual love of photography, the ocean and conservation. Together with photographer and filmmaker Andy Mann, Mittermeier and Nicklen founded SeaLegacy in 2014, a non-profit organization that uses photography and other visual media to raise awareness of the threats the ocean faces, but also of the tireless work being done to protect it.

The Power Of Images

Citizens have a crucial part in the conservation of the natural environment, and their engagement is just as important as that of scientists. It might be difficult to get people involved and make them aware of the environmental issues that we face today and in the future. When it comes to issues that have an outsized impact on society, our artists have often used art as a mirror for self-reflection, and in this sense, photography has been a way of explaining a story by appealing to the very same senses that move us to action; that same emotive power is at work when it comes to discussing environmental problems.

At the end of 2022, Rolex announced a new collaboration with the world-renowned pair of conservation photographers, further strengthening the Perpetual Planet Initiative by supporting Mittermeier and Nicklen in their tireless work and highlighting the issues facing the world’s oceans while inspiring positive action.

Wanting to catalyse change, Mittermeier and Nicklen are exposing serious threats and calling attention to solutions. Their work has been lauded for its ability to show how climate change contributes to the
loss of biodiversity and how our most valuable ecosystems are being threatened with extinction.

They have collected over 765 species descriptions and over seven million photographs over the course of 45 expeditions. Although they have already achieved international recognition for their work and amassed a combined nine million Instagram followers, they remain committed to expanding their audience.

The Rolex Perpetual Planet Initiative shares the values of Mittermeier and Nicklen and will help them reach a wider audience as they continue to offer a breathtaking perspective of the oceans. Two documentaries were made with Rolex’s support, both of which highlight the ocean as a place of adventure and discovery that is vital to the survival of all life on Earth and this is a place that can and should be kept perpetual. AM