OCEAN LOVERS #5: Matthew Sharp
"As a photographer, we have a responsibility to show the hidden worlds we hold dear"
Recently awarded in the “ocean preservation” category by the Ocean Photography Awards (photo competition rewarding the most beautiful ocean photos), Matthew Sharp is a young English photographer who divides his time between the mountains and the oceans. Guided by his passions and a taste for adventure, a few years ago he decided to make his passion his job. Today, he travels around the world to tell stories through his photos, whether it's highlighting the world's growing pressures and problems or capturing the intimate moments of a family.
I have had a passion for the oceans since I was young, having spent a lot of time at sea. I was lucky enough to move to the beautiful island of Jersey as a child and growing up I sailed four corners of the world with my family.
This exposure to the oceans led me to become interested in them and to want to understand them. I thus developed a real interest for the oceans, their fauna and their flora.
I have so many it's hard to choose...
I would say that the first memories are the strongest. Seeing humpback whales for the first time was incredible. But just the sounds of the ocean can be magical. I remember diving in Antigua, West Indies, when I was just twenty. As soon as we descended more than 10 meters deep, we could hear the songs of the whales in the distance. It was so beautiful that I would have stayed in this underwater world.
What do you like when you photograph the sea, the oceans?
I think as photographers we have a responsibility to show the “hidden worlds” that we care about, to resonate better with people. Hopefully, a few people will care more about the issues affecting our planet today. And for me, it's a good excuse to simply be in contact with the oceans. :)
I was surprised and proud to receive this award. This year was special and personally this award was a real ray of sunshine. I also hope that thanks to this, many more people will see this photo and that it will help to convey the message more.
I took this photo last year, during a surf trip to the Maldives. One of the islands had been left unfinished following an unfinished building project. The amount of plastic accumulated on the island deeply shocked me...In places it was even up to my knees (there are more photos on my site for those interested: https://sharpimagesphoto.co .uk/). Among all this waste, we saw a hermit crab walking around, plastic packaging had replaced its shell. It was really shocking and sad to see.
I remember when I was a kid, it felt like the ocean was so big that humans could never damage it. At least that was how I felt as a little boy. But that has changed in a big way: overfishing, ocean acidification, rising sea levels and plastic pollution. We have changed the oceans irreparably. It's crazy that we could change this ecosystem so much. What amazes me the most is that the predictions announce that in 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans!
It's not something I do aggressively. I think otherwise the message would be less effective. I come from a scientific background, having studied marine biology at university, and I like to try to keep things factual and relevant. However, I changed my way of doing things a bit when I realized what was going on, especially seeing the hermit crab and its plastic shell. I am now a little more proactive about sharing this kind of content. I also try to connect people in a more emotional way through these photos that move me so much.
Seeing people react to the stories behind my photos, whatever story I'm trying to tell them.
What are your plans for the future?
I have to join the Sea Legacy expedition later this year and also return to the Maldives to work alongside “Ocean Culture life” (a network of ocean enthusiasts) and spend time photographing underwater.
It should be a good year, I can't wait!
Pick up your rubbish, and if you find it on the beach or in the sea, pick it up too. If we all try a little bit to do our part, it would make a huge difference! And once you've picked it up, put it to recycle. It can make a difference for the planet.
Eat less meat. I'm not saying you have to go vegetarian (I love meat), but most meat like beef for example comes from animals fed on fish… It's a huge waste of energy and a waste of our dwindling fish stocks.
Think about the things you really need in your life rather than the things you want. I think it's good to have what you want in life but it should be things that you are passionate about, that have a real interest. Try living a little more minimalist...