Photographer Brian Skerry Earns Emerald Award in Australia

A Southern right whale off New Zealand, from the book Ocean Soul. Photograph by Brian Skerry


Over a 30-year career, photographer Brian Skerry has produced mesmerizing images of the ocean that have inspired millions. Now, Skerry is being awarded the second annual Emerald Award by Australia’s SIMS Foundation, which supports the Sydney Institute of Marine Science.

Skerry has shot for National Geographic magazine since 1989, and he has logged more than 10,000 hours beneath the waves.

“His images celebrate the mystery of the depths, and offer portraits of creatures so intimate they sometimes appear to have been shot in a studio,” the SIMS Foundation said in a statement.

Skerry was awarded the 2012 Emerald Award this week at the foundation’s annual Emerald Dinner, which celebrates the world-famous Sydney Harbor and marine environments across the world. The Emerald Award recognizes someone who “has made an outstanding contribution to our understanding of the marine environment.” Last year, National Geographic’s Sylvia Earle was recognized.

In commending Skerry’s work, the SIMS Foundation said, “Skerry dives eight months of the year, often in extreme conditions beneath arctic ice or in predator-infested waters. He has even lived at the bottom of the sea to get close to his subjects.

“Skerry is a passionate spokesman for the oceans he loves to photograph. His riveting presentations to audiences at TED, Harvard, and London’s Royal Geographic Society inspire reverence for the marine realm and offer hope for protecting the vitality of the world’s oceans.”

Picture of sea pens from Ocean Soul
Sea pens off New Zealand in 2006, from Ocean Soul. Photograph by Brian Skerry
Picture of Yellow Gobi, Lubricogobius exigus
Yellow goby off Japan, from Ocean Soul. Photograph by Brian Skerry


Picture of Ocean Soul bookThis past Sunday, Skerry gave the first National Geographic Live lecture at the Sydney Opera House. “We had 1,600 people and tremendous enthusiasm,” Skerry wrote in an email.

Skerry’s recent book Ocean Soul is packed with stunning images from our blue planet. Photos from the book were also recently displayed at National Geographic headquarters.

Skerry recently told National Geographic about one of his most iconic of recent images, a photo of a Southern right whale off New Zealand made in 2007.  “It was a stunning scene—a 45-foot-long, 70-ton right whale hovering over the bottom just a few feet away from a diver standing on the bottom. … At some point I stopped and kneeled on the sand to catch my breath, and I was certain the whale would just keep swimming. Instead, the whale also stopped, turned, and hovered over me as it stared with that soulful eye. A few seconds later, I resumed swimming alongside the whale, making pictures, and savoring every second.”

Through capturing moments like those, Skerry has brought many people closer to a world few see, but which makes up three-quarters of our planet, and is vital to all life on Earth.

Shark Crucifixtion picture
Thresher shark in gill net off Mexico, from Ocean Soul. Photograph by Brian Skerry


(See more photos by Brian Skerry.)


Brian Clark Howard covers the environment for National Geographic. He previously served as an editor for and E/The Environmental Magazine, and has written for Popular Science,,,, Yahoo!, MSN, and elsewhere. He is the co-author of six books, including Geothermal HVACGreen LightingBuild Your Own Small Wind Power System, and Rock Your Ugly Christmas Sweater.

Changing Planet