Originally from Germany, Joerg Blessing is an up and coming underwater photographer whose photography is inspiring many to dive deep and appreciate our underwater world. An artist and great painter of the ocean world, he only picked up a camera a few years ago and has already begun to master the art of underwater photography.
His passion for the Ocean stems from many areas including surfing. When he is not riding the waves, Joerg works as a dive instructor and loves sharing his passion for the sea with his students. As a first hand witness to the changes in the Ocean environment over the years, Joerg hopes his images will serve as a reminder of what we need to protect.
We asked Joerg a few questions about how he hopes his images will impact marine conservation efforts:
Q: Where did your love of the Ocean come from?
A: I always enjoyed playing around in water. But diving opened my eyes to a whole new world and its inhabitants. And surfing made the ocean my favourite playground .
Q: When did you start taking photos underwater?
A: It was always something I wanted to do since I started diving but I only really got hooked when I invested in some underwater camera gear in 2014.
Q: As a daily witness to the underwater world, you are greatly aware of the issues the Ocean faces, from coral bleaching to plastic pollution, what experiences have you had that have made you want to convey the urgency of ocean conservation through your photos and is this a new focus for you?
A: I remember most vividly the scary coral bleaching in 2016 in the Indian Ocean. Within weeks I saw perfect coral reefs turn snow white and months after that slimy algae started to cover all reeftops. Equally sad was diving in Indonesia on a Manta feeding aggregation site, where the water column was thick of plastic debris. I had my camera with me and all I could do was document it. Until then I only ever tried to photograph beautiful sights underwater, like most UW photographers.
Q: Are there any Ocean Photographers that you admire and what is it about their photography that inspires you?
A: David Doubilet for pioneering. Alexander Mustard for his techniques and explaining them in his books. Paul Nicklen for showing us Arctic waters most of us never dived in. Thomas Peschak for conservation photography. But there are so many other good photographers out there that are less well known.
Q: Your job as a Dive Instructor and passion for surfing has led you to many countries and their waters. What is a recurring theme that you’ve witnessed throughout these locations?
A: With growing numbers in tourism come challenges: waste disposal, energy, water. But I also see more people getting aware of this and trying to practice low impact, sustainable tourism.
Q: You are currently working in Baa Atoll in the Maldives. What local regulations are there to protect marine wildlife and do you think extra steps can be taken?
A: Baa Atoll has been declared a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in 2011. There are in total 9 marine protected areas where no marine life extraction is allowed. At the Manta feeding aggregation site “Hanifaru Bay” only limited numbers of snorkelers are allowed at a time and diving is prohibited. This leads as a good example for the Maldives but resort numbers in Maldives are growing fast, which puts more pressure on the fragile ecosystem of the atolls. I think the government should limit resort development and land reclamation to sustainable levels.
Q: If you could go anywhere on assignment, where would you go? What issue is driving you to act?
A: Just south of Maldives lies Chagos Archipelago, it would be cool to dive there as it’s pretty unexplored. I´d like to believe that with underwater photos we can open people’s eyes to the beauty of the ocean and remind them of the urgency to protect it. It is everyone’s daily choices that make a difference.
Q: If your photography could convey one message, what would it be?
A: The ocean is full of wonderful life, small and big. It’s worth it to make a change and protect it.
You can see more of Joerg’s wonderful photography at www.joergblessing.com