• PhotoGenie

Finding Nemo in 2019

This week’s Photogenie theme is titled "Here Comes the Sun". Through visual stories, our curators research the effects of the deteriorating ozone layer.

Ozone depletion, UVB radiation, reduced ozone levels: these are difficult words if you haven’t been taught them in school. What if I told you these words or rather the effects they come with, cause non-melanoma skin cancer, are linked to the development of cataracts and causes coral bleaching.

Ozone depletion, put simply, is a reduction in the concentration of ozone in the ozone layer. This layer helps protect life (organisms such as coral for example) from harmful UV radiation. The reduction in the concentration of ozone is caused by human activity through the release of pollutants into the atmosphere, which alters the ozone cycle. Hence, organisms such as coral become extremely vulnerable to an increase in UV radiation. Coral bleaching occurs when corals lose their colours and turn white as a result of an increase in the ocean’s temperature.

In The Reef, photographer Joshua Smith presents us with an “aerial journey”, as he calls it himself, along Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The images showcase the reef’s beauty but also convey a deeper message. With his photo series, Smith hopes to raise awareness about the reef and the impact humans have on it. The Reef is the fifth installment of Down Under from Above which is a film and aerial photo series capturing the Australian landscape.

The thinning of the ozone layer was first discovered by scientists in the 1980s. They also found out the thinning in the ozone layer was caused by the increase in concentrations of ozone-depleting chemicals. These include chlorofluorocarbons, CFCs and halons. I have not studied anything that taught me this, but I can tell you these chemicals remain in the atmosphere for decades, altering the ozone process permanently. These kinds of chemicals are used every day in the manufacturing of blowing agents for foams, aerosol sprays, packing materials and refrigerants to name a few.

“Through these images, I have the responsibility to remind as many people as I can exactly what we have here, how precious it is and how important it is for us to think about what we do on land and the impact it has on our oceans”. National Geographic states that it is thought that 67% of the northern reef systems died in the third major global bleaching event in 2016. By photographing the great barrier reef, Smith wanted to capture the reef’s beauty whilst (still) intact. Today, 90% of the Great Barrier Reef has been affected by coral bleaching. These reefs are homes for a huge amount of ocean life. Remember Nemo? He lives in the Great Barrier Reef!

But what can we do? How can we help Nemo and all the other living beings that call the Reef their home? According to Mark Eakin, coordinator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, we shouldn’t underestimate the role of climate change. In the end, it is all due to global warming he adds. We can all play a role in protecting the coral reefs. As an individual, you can reduce fertilizer runoff and try avoiding herbicides and pesticides for example. Nevertheless, to really solve the problem we must address climate change.

One thing is certain, if Finding Nemo were to be set in today’s Great Barrier Reef it wouldn’t display as many bright colours as it does in the 2003 movie. Wouldn’t that be boring to look at? If coral bleaching would make Finding Nemo monotonous and subdued, then so it would our world.

Think about that!

About the artist:

Joshua J. Smith is an Australian aerial photographer. He has spent a lot of time photographing Australia’s rural areas from the sky. Besides being a photographer, Smith is part of Josh & Jaimie Fishing. They specialize in filming, editing and the production of videos. The series, The Reef, is the fifth installment of Down Under from Above and is made in cooperation with Canon.

Check out Smith’s full body of work at www.joshuajs.com and @joshuaj.smith on Instagram.

More information:


Let us know what you think in the comments!

Our weekly themes always include three photo series by different photographers.

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Written by Charlie Ubbens

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