Interview with Underwater Photographer and Art Activist Jose G. Cano

“I am an underwater photographer specialized in studio, and an ocean activist trying to create awareness of the threats to our oceans, specially the devastating effects of climate change.”
Photo by Jose G. Cano

Please, tell us a little about Yourself ...

"I was born in Spain, in the Mediterranean coast, and after some years of work, I decided to leave everything and go to sail the world in an old sailing boat. I stopped in Thailand for the monsoon, but I ended up staying for ten years, working for a non profit organisation mostly. This was the place where I came to realize the enormous damage that we are inflicting to the Earth, and specially to the oceans. Ten years ago I moved to New Zealand, where I started doing photography again, - soon discovering the magic of underwater studio photography while working with dancers."

Why did You choose to focus on bringing Awareness to the Ocean ?

"Many years ago I was diving in Maldives and the corals were alive and full of life. Then I went ten years later and all the life, the colors and the beauty was gone... it was a shock for me to see with my own eyes the effect of humans in one of the most beautiful places in the planet. That was the point where I decided to act and not be just a passive witness of the catastrophe."

Why have You chosen to do Underwater Art Photography ?

"It was a coincidence, if you believe they exist. I was photographing contemporary dancers in NZ, but everything was so fast that it was difficult to capture the exact moments I wanted. Then I thought ”Well, why not to put them underwater and cancel gravity and slow time?” I built a big water tank and designed a system to use studio lights, and the results got me completely hooked to the point that now I barely shoot anything “dry”."

Photo by Jose G. Cano

Do You see Yourself as an Activist or Conservationist ?

"I see myself as an Art Activist, as I believe that more data will not change our habits. But bringing to the people the stories and beauty of the underwater realm, I hope will touch their hearts, and then, - change will come."

With Whom do You collaborate and why ?

"I work with Monica Nelson, she is an Oceanographer and also a climate change activist. She takes care of getting the science right behind our messages. For example, we just started a project called “Ocean Voices”, where we ask Scuba and Free Diving instructors, as well as other ocean related sports people, to give their trainees half an hour talk about the threats to the oceans before they do their course. We have even created a waterproof book with the main information in pictographs to use in boats !"

What/Who inspires You ?

"Mostly the beauty of the oceans. Not that long ago I was in Hawaii, and encountered a pod of sperm whales. They stayed with us for a long time, and being with such an impressive creature, and feel how they saw me and approached me gently, was one of the highs in my career."

Photo by Jose G. Cano

How do You experience peoples reaction to Your work ?

"The most beautiful reaction I have seen, was a 7 years old girl who came to the studio and saw one of our models characterized as a Blue Mermaid. She was able to look at her perform through one of the windows of the tank. She didn’t say a word for more than one hour, mesmerized by the sea creature moving underwater in front of her eyes. Later her mother told me she spoke, non stop, about the blue mermaid for two full days !"

What do You hope to achieve ?

"That people don’t see the oceans as a grey flat space, but as a rich world in itself, and realize that we depend completely on them. Bottom line is, we all came from the oceans...."

Are You optimistic about the future of the Ocean ?

“I want to be, I have to be. I can not conceive a planet with a dead, acidic ocean, deprived of beauty and life.”
Photo by Jose G. Cano

How would You define Your mission ?

“To bring the message, through storytelling and art, to the wider public and specially the young ones, that without life in the oceans, there is no life on this earth.We depend on the oceans, like the air we breathe.”

What advise do You wish to give the readers of Oceans Daily Magazine ?

“Please bring the beauty of the underwater world to all around You, learn, get informed and spread the message, because we, humans, the main threat, are the only ones that can save it.”

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