Interview with Matt Porteous and Tamsin Raine, authors of The Ocean Speaks: a photographic journey of discovery & hope

"Storytelling is not just a tool in ocean conservation; it's a transformative force."

Interview with Matt Porteous and Tamsin Raine, authors of The Ocean Speaks: a photographic journey of discovery & hope

Can you please introduce yourself to the readers?

Matt Porteous: I'm Matt Porteous, a photographer shaped by Jersey's rugged coastline and early surfing adventures. My global travels and natural world explorations have honed my photographic eye, using my camera to express my view of the planet. My work, fueled by a passion for capturing our environment's beauty and people's stories, aims to inspire wonder and appreciation in others.

Tamsin Raine: I'm Tamsin, a lifelong ocean enthusiast whose journey has been deeply intertwined with the sea. From my earliest days, the ocean has been my source of inspiration and passion. After earning a first-class honours degree in Advertising & Marketing, I delved into the world of advertising agencies, managing national campaigns for leading brands. Yet, I soon realised that something essential was missing—the connection to my true passion, the ocean.

Driven by my belief in the profound emotional bond we share with the ocean, I embarked on a mission to merge my expertise in communication with my love for the sea. I'm convinced that conventional approaches to marine science often overlook this emotional connection. By bridging the gap between culture, science, and communication through creative practices, I believe we can foster collaboration in sustainable development, heritage preservation, and ocean stewardship.

You are the founders of Ocean Culture Life. Can you tell us about the story behind this organisation?

M: My journey into creating this organisation was driven by a deep-seated inspiration drawn from others and their efforts in safeguarding our people, nature, and the planet. I've always believed in the power of visual storytelling to broadcast a narrative of hope and positive change, diverging from the oft-pessimistic portrayal by mainstream media. With its vast expanse and mysterious beauty, the ocean is a space teeming with inspiring individuals working tirelessly for its preservation. My ambition was to craft a platform where the voices and stories of these dedicated souls could be collectively showcased, ensuring they are seen and heard. This vision was the cornerstone upon which Ocean Culture Life was built—a beacon of positive storytelling amidst a sea of negative noise.

T: Ocean Culture Life was born out of a profound realisation: our ocean, despite being Earth's lifeblood, remains largely unexplored and misunderstood. We often boast more knowledge about the surface of distant moons than the depths of our own seas. Recognising this communication gap, we embarked on a mission to amplify the voice of our ocean.

Our organisation is driven by a simple yet powerful mission: to give a voice to our ocean. We are committed to promoting the conservation, protection, and improvement of the marine environment by fostering a deeper public understanding of the ocean's myriad issues and challenges. Through storytelling, we aim to shed light on the dedicated individuals and organisations working tirelessly to safeguard our oceans. By sharing these stories, we seek to inspire others to join us in the crucial endeavour of ocean conservation. 

35dedbf6da7fccbd4b9c2bff2055d4be14f4c3c2.jpgA male giant cuttlefish (Sepia apama) squirts out ink so it can escape from potential predators. Credit: Rowan Dear.

What role does community play in Ocean Culture Life?

M: In Ocean Culture Life, community plays an indispensable role; it's essentially the foundation upon which our organisation rests. At the heart of OCL, the community is pivotal because it's all about connecting individuals from various walks of life who share a common goal: protecting and celebrating our oceans. This sense of belonging and collective effort not only helps in spreading awareness but also in inspiring action among a wider audience. Our community is a testament to the power of unity in driving positive environmental change, making every story we tell a ripple in the vast ocean of conservation efforts.

T: We believe that collective action is essential for effective ocean conservation. Our organisation serves as a hub where ocean lovers, conservationists, scientists, storytellers, and advocates come together to share knowledge, collaborate on initiatives, and inspire positive change. Through our community-driven approach, we aim to foster a sense of belonging and empowerment among individuals passionate about protecting our oceans. By uniting diverse voices and perspectives, we amplify our impact and work towards a shared vision of a healthier, more vibrant ocean for future generations.

Tell us more about the power of storytelling in ocean conservation.

M: Storytelling is not just a tool in ocean conservation; it's a transformative force. Through captivating narratives, we can bring our ocean guardians' lifelong dedication and work to the forefront, ensuring the broader public recognises them. We aim to bridge this gap, reaching a wider audience with messages of hope and positive change. Storytelling allows us to glimpse the lives of those deeply connected to the ocean, sharing their experiences, challenges, and victories. By weaving science and vital conservation messages into engaging stories, we make complex information accessible and compelling. This approach educates and inspires action, fostering a deeper connection between people and the ocean. Ultimately, storytelling is our most powerful tool to illuminate the importance of preserving our blue planet for future generations.

T: Storytelling humanises complex scientific concepts and environmental challenges, making them more accessible and relatable to a broader audience. By bridging the gap between science and communication, we can convey the urgency of conservation efforts and highlight the interconnectedness between human well-being and the health of the ocean. Through vivid imagery, personal anecdotes, and engaging narratives, we can convey the urgency of conservation efforts and highlight the interconnectedness between human well-being and the health of the ocean. Additionally, storytelling has the power to empower local communities and marginalised voices, providing them with a platform to share their experiences, knowledge, and solutions. By amplifying these diverse perspectives, we can foster inclusivity, equity, and collaboration within the ocean conservation movement.

Ultimately, storytelling serves as a catalyst for positive change by inspiring empathy, fostering connections, and mobilising individuals and communities to become stewards of the ocean. As Ocean Culture Life, we recognise the transformative potential of storytelling and are committed to harnessing its power to protect and restore our oceans for future generations.

What is The Ocean Speaks, when did you first come up with the idea and how did you bring it to fruition?

T:  "The Ocean Speaks" is a platform dedicated to celebrating the untold stories of the sea and highlighting the remarkable efforts of our global community committed to ocean conservation. The idea for "The Ocean Speaks" has been brewing for quite some time, stemming from our deep-seated passion for the ocean and our desire to amplify the voices of those dedicated to its protection.

We recognized that amidst the vastness of the ocean and the multitude of challenges it faces, there are countless stories waiting to be shared—stories of resilience, hope, and determination. These stories often remain unheard or overlooked, despite their profound impact on marine ecosystems and coastal communities. With "The Ocean Speaks," we aimed to create a platform where these stories could finally find a voice, where individuals and organisations could share their experiences, insights, and initiatives with a broader audience. Our goal was to inspire empathy, foster connections, and mobilise collective action in support of ocean conservation.

Bringing "The Ocean Speaks" to fruition required collaboration, creativity, and dedication. We worked closely with our community members, partners, and volunteers to curate content, develop the platform, and engage with audiences across various channels. Through storytelling workshops, outreach initiatives, and digital campaigns, we sought to raise awareness about "The Ocean Speaks" and invite individuals to contribute their own stories to the platform.

Over time, "The Ocean Speaks" evolved into a dynamic hub of ocean-inspired narratives, featuring stories from diverse perspectives and regions around the world. From personal anecdotes to scientific discoveries, each story shared on the platform contributes to a greater understanding of the ocean and its significance to life on Earth.

As we continue to expand and refine "The Ocean Speaks," our commitment to amplifying these voices remains unwavering. We believe that by giving a platform to these stories, we can inspire positive change, cultivate a deeper appreciation for the ocean, and empower individuals to become champions for marine conservation.

Why did you decide to convey an environmental message through the medium of photography?

M: I chose photography as the medium to convey environmental messages because of its profound ability to tell a compelling story within a single frame. Throughout history, art has inspired generations and served as a window into the past, offering insights into moments that have shaped our world. With its immediate impact and universal language, photography has the unique power to capture the viewer's attention and evoke emotion. It allows us to present the beauty and fragility of our environment in a way that words alone cannot express. By showcasing nature's wonders alongside its challenges, photography can inspire a sense of responsibility and urgency to protect our planet. It's a tool that can transform awareness into action, making it an invaluable ally in the fight for environmental conservation.

T: Photography has the ability to transcend language barriers and communicate complex ideas in a visual and compelling way. Through stunning imagery, we can capture the beauty of the natural world, as well as the challenges it faces, in a manner that resonates deeply with viewers. By showcasing the ocean's breathtaking landscapes, vibrant marine life, and the human impact on these ecosystems, we aim to raise awareness about environmental issues and encourage individuals to take meaningful action to protect our planet.

What message do you hope to convey through the book?

M: Through the book, we aim to echo the core message of Ocean Culture Life: connecting the world with stories from the ocean to inspire hope. It's about more than just showcasing the beauty and challenges of the marine environment; it's a call to action. We encourage people to pick up a camera, share their stories, and contribute to a global narrative. With the upcoming launch of our OCL platform, we're creating a space where anyone passionate about the ocean can share their experiences. This initiative amplifies voices, fosters a community, and inspires collective action towards ocean conservation. We want to demonstrate that every individual has a role to play and a story worth telling in the mission to protect our blue planet.

T: Through this book, we hope to convey a message of hope. Amidst the challenges facing our oceans, we aim to inspire optimism and instil a sense of possibility for a better future. By showcasing the beauty, diversity, and resilience of marine ecosystems, as well as the incredible efforts of individuals and organisations working to protect them, we aim to remind readers that positive change is possible.

Through stories of conservation success, innovative solutions, and collective action, we seek to ignite a sense of empowerment and motivation in our readers, encouraging them to become stewards of the ocean and champions for environmental sustainability.

Ultimately, we believe that by highlighting the transformative power of hope and the potential for positive impact, we can inspire readers to join us in safeguarding the health and vitality of our oceans for generations to come.

The Ocean Speaks: A photographic journey of discovery & hope by Matt Porteous & Tamsin Raine (£28, hardback) is published by Quarto on 16th May.

Header Image Credit: Credit: Maxime Cheminade

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