On the Front Lines: the War to Save Our Oceans

Environmental warrior Cristina Mittermeier is a conservationist, wildlife photographer, and author who has dedicated her life to education and outreach through the stories reflected in her photos. In 2005, she founded the prestigious International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP) to provide a platform for photographers working on environmental issues. She also founded SeaLegacy with her partner Paul Nicklen, a non-profit society and community committed to protecting the world’s oceans. Today, she continues her work, traveling to the ends of the earth, taking photos, telling stories, and advocating for the preservation of the planet’s fragile treasures.

Cristina Mittermeier is a conservationist who uses her photography to speak for the planet. “I like to make images that transcend the meaning of what’s on the page or on the screen to represent something bigger. When I’m taking pictures, when I’m editing my work, I’m looking for those images that do a lot of heavy lifting and storytelling, but they’re also beautiful and they are also compelling. Those are iconic images. Images that make people remember.”

Cristina was born in Mexico, and has a degree in Biochemical Engineering in Marine Sciences. It was during her time as a young grad student, working in fisheries and pulling dead dolphins from fishing nets, where her eyes were opened to the devastating damage on wildlife and ecosystems caused by industry. “I think when you love animals and you love nature, when you have to do that, that really kills a little bit of your soul. I knew by the time I graduated that this is not what I wanted to do. I also knew that it was not right. Since then, I’ve dedicated my life to trying to sound the alarm, to tell people there’s a price to all these things we do.”

Her concern over the destruction of species and landscapes ignited a passion for conservation. Photography was something she stumbled upon by accident when she borrowed a camera and soon discovered that she had some talent for it. She was drawn to the power of photography as a way to show the world what was happening to the environment. “I started taking pictures more seriously and I started attending these big photography conferences. Photographers would come and discuss the various aspects of whatever and I would raise my hand and I would say, ‘Hey, could we use our images to try to help conserve some of the things we’re photographing?’ They were not interested. They felt that being an environmentalist was very polarizing and they didn’t want their organization to go that way so I thought, ‘Okay, I’m gonna create my own group,’ because I was seeing the work of some photographers who were really invested in advancing conservation through their photography, and I wanted to recognize them and I wanted to give them a platform so I created an organization, the International League of Conservation Photographers. When I die, if that’s my only contribution to have given people the label they needed to become super heroes for nature, then that’s been a good one.”

Over a decade later, Cristina continues her conservation photography mission, taking inspiring images of the earth’s beauty, as well as the effects of environmental abuse and climate change, to compel action. “I think the key to conservation photography is that the work begins after you push the trigger. That’s when you have to make sure your images go in front the people that make those decisions. I feel personally responsible for nature and I want people to feel that personal responsibility as well.”

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