What Photographing The World’s Oceans Taught Me About Climate Change

On World Oceans Day, photographer Enzo Barracco shares how his experience photographing the oceans from Antartica to the Galápagos profoundly altered his understanding of the climate crisis. 

For Enzo Barracco, our oceans represent “a world within another world.”

From Antarctica to the Galápagos, the fashion-turned-nature photographer has dedicated his career to the capturing these watery expanses as a poignant reminder of humankind’s impact on our ecosystem. Each subject has been selected in order to communicate not only its sublime natural beauty, but the fragility of the climates on which our planet depends. 

After making the switch from luxury editorials to the unforgiving ecosystem of Antarctica for his first book, Barracco has since used his camera to deliver a much-needed meditation on the interconnectedness of seemingly far flung corners of the world. Through his work, the Italian-born, London based photographer hopes that his work will be “an opportunity for deep reflection on our daily consumption.”

This World Oceans Day, we caught up on some lessons learned about climate change by photographing the world’s oceans, as well as the role of the creative industries in educating about the climate emergency. 

Why did you choose to make the switch from fashion to environmental photography? 

While fashion gave me the opportunity to travel the world and meet amazing companies and people, the natural world always was and is my first source of inspiration. However, the clear switch for me was definitely when I was reading about the explorer Ernest Shackleton. His extraordinary adventure in Antarctica and his courage, determination and desire to never give up inspired me to organize my own expedition in Antarctica in order to make my book ‘The Noise of Ice: Antarctica.’ It was an incredible privilege to have the foreword by Sir Ranulph Fiennes in the book, as well as an introduction by the Royal Geographical Society London and contributions of amazing people and institutions.

Can you tell us about your upcoming project, in the Galápagos, and why this part of the world offers such an important window for us to learn about climate change? 

I chose Galápagos for my new book because of a few interesting and fascinating aspects. One is the fact that Charles Darwin discovered the origin of our species in the Galápagos, and second for its lucky geographical position. Galápagos is located exactly where three major currents collide, and this extraordinary event creates a very unique ecosystem. I believe Galápagos is a perfect ambassador to communicate what the oceans face now.

What have you learnt about the climate emergency from photographing the world’s oceans?

When you witness the wildness of the oceans you witness the shape of their energy. To cross the oceans is a unique experience; you realize how everything in our planet is super connected. The most profound thing for me is how an event in the middle of the Pacific Ocean can have consequences in the middle of the Sahara Desert. 

Was there any specific experience during your travel for your book that particularly moved you?

When you are in the wildness like in Antarctica you feel as though you are at the edge of the world. You can feel the time expand. A moment I will definitely never forget is when a massive glacier fell down just a few meters in front of me and my team while we were in a small zodiac boat. Nature always has the capacity to surprise you. After this experience I found the title of my book “The Noise of Ice” because the sound of the ice crashing was the most powerful thing I have ever heard. 

What do you think it about photography that makes it such an effective tool for climate storytelling?

I believe everyone has the duty to do something to support our planet and raise awareness about the natural world. I personally do my work in order to raise awareness with photography because photography doesn’t need translation. Photography arrives where words cannot. If you see what we could lose, I believe it is easier to think differently and alter your behaviour.

Do you think it is the responsibility of creatives to use their work to raise awareness of these issues, and tell these stories to an international audience? 

All environmental issues correlate with climate change. It is a global problem that is so diverse it requires the attention and the responsibility of all of us from different industries. It is really my privilege to be able to communicate my commitment to raise awareness about our natural world with my work.

How do you believe we can work together to start to protect the world’s oceans? 

In order to protect our oceans and kickstart social change I very strongly believe the first action is education. We must continue to teach and learn the depth of how fundamental our relationship with the oceans is and how our life on the planet depends on the oceans.