He has dived into the mysterious sea realm, crossed the liquid frontier and immersed his whole life into the beauty of its secrets, but not yet grown gills. He grew up basking on the sun-kissed beaches of Florida's east coast and learned the sophisticated language of its majestic creatures, the often mistakenly stigmatised giants who inhabit the depths of the acquatic world and still to this day can't quench the human thirst for domain. Here is a small glimpse into the outlook of James Ferrara, the fearless underwater photographer and man who whispers to sharks.
Let's talk about you. How would you describe yourself and your way of moving through life in one single word?
Your life is centred on capturing the wonders of the deep ocean. When did you get into photography and what brought you underwater?
Growing up on Florida’s east coast has deeply ingrained a love for the beauty and power of the ocean. I started scuba diving 20 years ago and over the last five years I have developed into an avid freediver. I enjoy the challenge of diving on one breath of air to capture my photographs. I bought my first camera three years ago in order to share the underwater world through my eyes.
And as your work mostly connects to wildlife and the beautiful sceneries the world has to offer, what is nature to you?
Nature is a never ending canvas and has become a huge part of my life. The constant unpredictability of the natural world draws my attention. I am intrigued by the vast variety of creatures out there and their unique characteristics. My photography career has further enhanced my appreciation for wildlife. I specialise in underwater photography, but still enjoy shooting all types of wildlife given the opportunity.
How would you explain your bond to it? Do you believe it is something you belong to or would you describe it differently?
I believe I truly belong to nature. It is constantly affecting my daily life. Nature is not just about the wildlife. Weather patterns, a sunrise/sunset, or the topography I come across can change my mood or how I move about my day. Everyone is a part of nature, whether we realise it or not. I have chosen a life centred around the ocean. There is an energy and mystery that comes with the ocean, which draws me towards it on a daily basis.
As it has been largely spoken about in recent times, what are your thoughts on the relationship between humankind and wildlife, or also more generally on the environmental impact of man on the natural world?
I feel we have failed as humans to preserve nature and wildlife. Activities such as overharvesting and overbuilding are destroying wildlife habitats. Our oceans and beaches are littered with trash. Although it seems society is increasing proactivity with conservation, the global response needs major improvement. Change starts at the individual level; we all need to do our part on a daily basis, as small as that effort may seem, in order to see lasting sustainable change.
According to your personal experience, what ways and techniques do you find are best for interacting with sea life?
I find it best to let the sea life come to you, keeping your movements smooth and non-threatening. Doing this allows for a mutual interaction between yourself and the subject, which usually results in a better opportunity for pictures. One thing you never want to do is chase sea life. Chasing sea life not only disrupts their normal behaviour, but will also scare them off, giving no chance for a well composed picture. Also do some research on the animal’s behaviour, prior to swimming with them. You may come across some great information, which could make your photography experience that much better.
What was the most significant encounter you had underwater?
Even though much of my photography is done with sharks, my most significant encounter underwater would have to be swimming with Sperm Whales off the coast of Dominica. On the last day of our expedition, we had an amazing encounter with 12 whales socialising at one time. When our expedition leader said it was the best two hours he has had in the water in 7 years of running trips, we knew it was special. To be in the presence of such magnificent, powerful creatures is something I will cherish for the rest of my life.