Christian Vizl

Professional – Prix de la Photographie Paris 2019
Nature Photographer of the Year – Ocean Ambassadors

Sharks, whales, sea lions, turtles, marlins and schools of fish are the “ocean ambassadors” in the close-up, black-and-white images by the Mexican wildlife photographer Christian Vizl. Vizl’s underwater photography taken scuba-diving is an ode to the creatures inhabiting the ocean and bears testament to what humanity stands to lose if it is not better protected.

“I try to capture sublime moments of the marine environment, and the essence and experience of being there in the presence of that particular animal, capturing their splendor and soul,” Vizl, 48, says. “Each animal, being an individual, reacts in a different way; some are very shy and some are extremely curious about my presence.”

Vizl, 48, started scuba-diving in his early twenties and has been taking underwater photography since 2010. During the last decade, he has been working independently on personal projects and for NGOs as well as magazine commissions. To achieve strong images, he believes that the best conditions are “clear visibility, not many divers around and animals coming close.”

Yet Vizl is seeking something far more particular than documenting ocean life. “One of my goals is to create poetic images through the use of light,” he says. “What’s most important is how I apply and manipulate the light that´s available in order to create pictures with dramatic effect, carrying depths of emotion and using contrast and tonalities as a means to emphasize the form and structure of the scenery.”

However, it is not solely the majesty of the ocean that Vizl aims to bear witness to but the impact of pollution, climate change and the hardship of local fishermen. While he does not consider his work to be political, Vizl concedes that he is seeking to raise awareness of these issues.

“I see plastics and garbage in every single dive, entangled animals or fish and sharks with hooks on their mouths very often, and I’ve seen bleaching of corals in many parts of the world and complete reefs destroyed by human activities,” Vizl says. “Everywhere I go diving, I talk to fisherman and they all struggle to survive.”

During the Covid-19 lockdown, Vizl embarked on another direction: “I started a documentary on local and migrating birds with my partner, who is a cinematographer. We are very excited because this is our debut as directors and producers.”

No doubt that Vizl will be bringing his critical eye to this documentary, too.

By Anna Sansom