While searching around for an interesting and powerful documentary photography project, I came across Thomas P. Peschak who is an assignment photographer for National Geographic. His main focus is on wildlife conservation, more specifically in the way humans affect marine life, and his photos are stunning.
Peschak was originally a marine biologist, but realized he would have a greater impact on people with pictures rather than statistics, so he switched his career to become a wildlife journalist. He has published a handful of books loaded with statistics and serious research, along with his photography of sharks, manta rays, and other marine life.
While some of his pictures have a serene, peaceful feeling to them, Peschak’s goal in his book, Sharks and People: Exploring Our Relationship with the Most Feared Fish in the Sea, is to show the reality of human interference with these creatures who have been around for millions of years. Fisheries and the finning industry are huge threats to sharks.
In these photos, Peschak shows some unsettling moments of the finning industry, which is an extremely wasteful and cruel business, and has been banned in over 60 countries. Humans are killing sharks for less than 5% of the animal’s body, and this is clearly depleting shark populations. According to an article he wrote for Time Magazine, Peschak witnessed over 1,000 sharks auctioned off in just one single night and each year. In Sharks and People he writes that roughly 10 million kg of shark fins are auctioned off, equivalent to the weight of 2,000 African Elephants.
Peschak also touches on ways that people are trying to understand and co-exist with sharks.
Peschak tells Nat Geo that he often sketches out pictures he wants to capture before diving in the water, so he knows what to look for. He never uses any SCUBA gear, just a weighted belt, some flippers and a snorkel, and holds his breath for several minutes, giving him a lot more mobility in the ocean. Peschak has studied sharks long enough to understand their behavior and says they are not dangerous if you know what you’re doing.