Five artists and photographers focus on ocean issues and give us their creative takes on conservation, global warming and rising sea levels.


Paul Nicklen brings us Hot Images from Cold Water

paul nicklen, Artists and Photographers Focus on Ocean Issues

Paul Nicklen has been aiming his camera at ocean issues in the Arctic and Antarctic for the last two decades.

paul nicklen, christina mittermeier, artists and photographers focus on ocean issuesHaving observed a rapidly changing polar environment, Nicklen hopes his images will generate a global awareness of the implications  of these changes. (photo – Paul Nicklen)

“I want my photos to document some of the most remote and stunning ecosystems on Earth and to show what’s at risk if we don’t protect our environment.”

Nicklen has 3.2 million followers on his Instagram feed, that features images of the animals and untouched ecosystems he encounters during his travels. (photo – christina mittermeier)

While photographing Antarctica over the past two decades, I’ve seen [the] changes” and “If we lose the sea ice, we lose this ecosystem.” Said Nicklen who also believes that our oceans, with our help, can be resilient. The creation of the Ross Sea marine protected area in 2016 was a step in the right direction, but “we must protect more of these Antarctic ecosystems” because “if we lose the sea ice, we lose this ecosystem,” he observed. See our Blue Ocean post on the Ross Sea MPA. and Obama’s efforts to Ban Oil Drilling in the Arctic.

Read more at EcoWatch, about the network of marine protected areas that Nicklen hopes can be created in the Southern Ocean. A timely suggestion with two proposals for mpas in the Southern Ocean that would protect the Weddell Sea and the waters off East Antarctica. Proposals being considered by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources that represents 25 governments. See more of Paul’s incredible images at


Primate Paintings Promote Protection

robin huffman, Artists and Photographers Focus on Ocean IssuesStunning artwork, recently, covered the walls of the New York Explorer’s Club for the first time in 113 years. The exhibit, “Witness” features the work of Robin Huffman and offers stunning portraits of the primate pals that Huffman cared for in animal sanctuaries around the world.

Witness is the perfect name for it because it’s forcing us to witness what we’ve done to these beautiful creatures.” Said Will Roseman the Explorers Club executive director.

Ten years ago, Huffman gave up her career as an interior designer in New York and headed for Cameroon to work in an animal sanctuary. There she discovered that each of these animals had a story to tell. Stories that she eventually told in photographs and paintings.

“Now, I refer to my life as BP and AP, before primates and after,” she explained. Her mission is now to educate through her art on issues like poaching; the exotic pet trade and conservation efforts that can protect primate habitats.

“It’s about animal welfare, but also about conservation and preserving a species,” Huffman says. “It’s about respecting the individual and realizing they have as much of a right to live as we do.”


Sea Level Rise in the Floating City

lorenzo quinn, support, Artists and Photographers Focus on Ocean IssuesFor decades, we have been aware of Venice’s perilous perch in the waters of its Adriatic lagoon. Images of hip-booted pedestrians wading through floodwaters in St. Marks’ square galvanized the Venetians, the Italians and the world to the disintegration of this irreplaceable floating museum.

Enormous efforts to hold back the waters culminated in the construction of MOSE, a system of mobile gates installed in the inlets between the Adriatic Sea and the lagoon. The gates are raised when the seas rise creating a barrier that protects the city. However, will Moses be successful when faced with the sea level rise that is anticipated as result of global warming?

This is the question posed by a dramatic sculpture that rises from the Grand Canal to grip the walls of the landmark Ca’ Sagredo Hotel. Lorenzo Quinn, an Italian artist has created “Support”, two large, 5,000 pound hands that emerge from the canal’s water to embrace and support the walls of the historic hotel.

“Venice is a floating art city that has inspired cultures for centuries, but to continue to do so it needs the support of our generation and future ones, because it is threatened by climate change and time decay,” Quinn said. (photo – Lorenzo Quinn)

Experts project that, Venice may still be at risk from waters that could rise as much as 5 feet by 2100.


Allie Wist sets table for Dinner Party shaped by Rising Sea Levels

Allie wist, Artists and Photographers Focus on Ocean IssuesAnother artist is sending a message about the perils of rising sea levels, albeit on a more intimate scale that Quinn’s Venetian hands. Allie Wist, an art director at Saveur magazine poses the question of what will our menus feature when we are submerged by rising sea levels.

Global warming not only causes sea ice to melt, raising sea levels but also causes ocean acidification; alteration of fish migrations; changes in seasonal growing patterns and the increase of extreme weather events. Consequently, Wist, choose food, as her subject, to explain the implications of climate change.

Wist and her team started with a list of the foods that might not be available in the future. You would think that with more ocean you would eat more seafood, however, unfortunately it is not that simple.

Shellfish like mussels, scallops and oysters will not be able to form shells because of higher acid levels in the ocean. Fisheries on the US west coast are already experiencing reduced harvests because of this problem. Rising water temperatures may make shellfish more susceptible to toxic infections that are a direct health hazard to consumers.

You can see more on Wist’s menu on or visit Wist’s entire essay plus some futuristic recipes on her website.


Coral Reefs Captured in Captivating Detail

courtney, Artists and Photographers Focus on Ocean IssuesThe work of Courtney Mattison has inspired policy makers and the public to preserve and conserve our endangered coral reefs. Courtney’s beautiful, intricately sculpted ceramic works capture the fragility of the coral ecosystem and the effects that global warming and ocean acidification are having on these marine systems worldwide.

Lush, coral reefs give way to bleached, dead skeletons that show the transition from healthy coral to dead reefs killed by coral bleaching. Courtney’s work forces us to examine what humans have done to create this crisis of ocean warming that is destroying the ecosystems that we are so dependent on.

Courtney’s large-scale sculptures have been exhibited at the headquarters of NOAA; the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Nova Southeastern University Oceanographic Center.

In 2015 the International SeaKeepers Society named Coutrney, Artist of the Year and Origin Magazine named her as one of 100 top “Ocean Heroes.” Courtney was a 2016 Blue Ocean Summit Speaker, and you can see a gallery of her work here.


See these Related Blue Ocean Posts:

Summit 2015, Ocean Views – Creatives tackle the underwater issues Film, Photography, Books, Cartoons
Don’t Miss National Geographic’s “Sea of Hope”
The Burt Jones and Maureen Shimlock Gallery
Amos Nachoum Gallery
2 Minutes in Sherman’s Lagoon – Jim Toomey


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