Anuar Patjane

Mexico

"Whale Whisperers"

Winner of National Geographic Traveler 2015 - 1st Prize

Diving with a humpback whale and her newborn calf while they cruise around Roca Partida in the Revillagigedo Islands, Mexico. This is an outstanding and unique place full of pelagic life, so we need to accelerate the incorporation of the islands into UNESCO as a natural heritage site in order to increase the protection of the islands against the prevailing illegal fishing corporations and big-game fishing. "I was positioned very near the head of the whale mother," he says "All of the sudden she and her calf started to swim towards the rest of the diving team. I knew there was going to be movement - the divers had to move away - so I prepared for the shot. All my attention and focus was concentrated on the body of the mother, and when she moved her fin to the side the composition seemed right and I clicked."

These photos are from "Underwater Realm", a series of gorgeous black and white photos of sharks, whales and other amazing creatures. Patjane first dove in Flekkefjord, Norway when he was 17. It was an introductory course, in a wetsuit, and the frigid sea was a shock. “My first thought when I jumped into those cold waters was, The instructor has to be kidding, this is impossible. But after I stopped feeling cold, it became an incredible experience, it was like discovering a whole new world,” Patjane says. Now 34 and an old pro, Patjane spent five years photographing Realm. He shot most of them off the coast of Mexico, but also dove in Cuba and Clipperton Island, a tiny atoll about 1,500 miles west of Costa Rica.

Black and white allows him to focus on the contrast between light and shadow and the interaction of lines and curves. "I have never seen a color photograph that can have such an impact on me," he says. Compared to other undersea photographers, who often prefer large DSLRs and elaborate gear, Patjane keeps it simple. He shoots with a compact Sony RX100 in a Nauticam housing with an Inon wide angle lens and dome. "Of course, having the right gear isn’t as important as having enough air. You don’t need to spend a lot of time underwater to make good photos, but you should have an extra tank in case you find something especially spectacular —like, say, a family of whales", something that actually happened to Patjane during a dive. He called the experience "out of this world. To hear whales singing when they are near you makes your body resonate and your whole body vibrates when they make low and grave sounds." 

You’d think it would be sharks, not whales, keeping him alert, but Patjane says they aren’t so intimidating when you remember human aren’t a part of their diet. One of his most memorable experiences came during a dive at Clipperton Island, where he was welcomed by hundreds of curious, young sharks. “When we jumped into those waters, we didn’t know what to expect," he says. "That is a beautiful feeling, to jump right into the unknown."

Anuar Patjane is an anthropologist and photographer born and raised in Mexico. "I believe in pure and limitless creative power. I avoid all stereotypes regarding what I do with my camera and with the photographs I create. Each and every photograph is unique, unrepeatable and endless; so should be their interpretations. I always look for images depicting strong meanings and emotions. I tell visual stories with them, stories that show the power of empathy... stories that focus the attention into places and moments, which usually escape unnoticed. I can not photograph the staged, the arranged, I just can't. I need reality flowing, that is my element and that is what I enjoy photographing. I believe the best thing we can do as photographers is to give the world the tools to create some meaning and help ourselves and others observe the different perspectives of what we usually take for granted."

All pictures are copyright © by Anuar Patjane  |  Official Website

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