Changing Planet

Photography teaches youngsters to “see” the beauty of their Galapagos home

“You’re the Galapagos Photographer. I like your photos. I take photos too.”

These were the words from a 7-year-old that helped me understand that through photography, my message about caring for the Galapagos was succeeding in reaching people of all ages.

Two years have gone by since this conversation with little Fabio, a conversation I will always remember; and six years since photography became part of my working and public life. It was then that I joined the communications team at the Galapagos National Park Directorate, a public institution that forms part of Ecuador’s Ministry of the Environment and that stands for the protection, conservation and regulation of the protected terrestrial and marine areas of the Galapagos Islands, a UNESCO Natural World Heritage site.

A park ranger carrying tortoises ready for release on Pinzon Island. Photo: Diego Bermeo
The releasing of tortoises on Pinzon Island. These tortoises were bred in captivity in the Fausto Llerena Breeding Centre on the Island of Santa Cruz. Photo: Diego Bermeo

One of my tasks on the communications team is to document through photographs the work the GNPD park rangers do in the field, like the reintroduction of terrestrial tortoises to their islands of origin, or the safeguarding of tortoise nests in protected areas, where the presence of rats puts the newborns’ lives at risk before they have even hatched.

I have also been able to show through my photos the important work that the park rangers do to protect, conserve and restore the archipelago. We partner with the Charles Darwin Foundation whose scientists are currently trying to protect the mangrove finch from the presence of an invasive fly called Philornis downsi, which affects its eggs and chicks, putting the species highly at risk.

A mangrove finch photographed in the laboratory of the Charles Darwin Centre, where scientists are attempting to save the species from a parasitic fly. Photo: Diego Bermeo.
A field trip to the El Chato reserve to photograph tortoises. Photo: Diego Bermeo
Taking a short break during one of the youth courses on Santa Cruz island. Photo: Liza Diaz

All this photographic coverage, and the fact that my coworkers’ day-to-day lives take place in such magical natural sites, has made me realize the importance of preserving nature and the necessity of bringing the message of conservation to more people. This is key for me as a member of a leading institution in conservation, and on a personal level as a member of the community in which my family and children live; and also because of the thousands of people that arrive here each year to see what it is about these islands that is so enchanting.

Discussing the protection of turtle nests in the breeding center Fausto llerena, 2016.
A park ranger explaining the process for protecting the nests of giant tortoises and collecting their eggs. Photo: Diego Bermeo

In the year 2014, my knowledge of photography was transformed into an educational project, the Young Photographers of Galapagos, in which I encouraged the students of Santa Cruz to take part. Before going out to take photos, they learned the importance of the rules of the Galapagos National Park, like not using a flash and keeping a distance of at least 2 meters from the species.

The opening of the Young Photographers of Galapagos exhibition in the Aracely Gilbert Gallery in Guayaquil in 2016. Photo: Tania Munoz
The first Young Photographers of Galapagos exhibition took place in 2014 on Puerto Ayora pier, Santa Cruz. Photo: Diego Bermeo

In three years, 50 young people have taken part in the project. On one occasion I heard one of the participants, Melissa Arevalo, say: “I got to know new places thanks to photography, to know my paradise more deeply, and to see its beauty that is so vulnerable, so majestic. I now understand that we have to look after it better and appreciate it more. One of the biggest pleasures that I experienced was without doubt to value Galapagos.”

These words drove me forward because they showed me that through photography, these young people have learnt to see the Galapagos in a different way. And they now also understand why thousands of people come every year with their cameras to photograph the place where they live.

They further understand that if we don’t look after this place, we put species like the tortoises and the mangrove finches at risk, especially as they are so affected by introduced species, most of which arrive by transport, on clothes, and in suitcases and cargo.

Permanent gallery of young photographers at the Charles Darwin Foundation.

At the end of every school year, when my Young Photographers of Galapagos group participates in local and national exhibitions, I feel rewarded when I hear them talking about the impact photography has had on them, like in the heartfelt words of participant Abraham Bonilla, which he shared at the University of the Arts in Guayaquil:

“Diego not only reaches out to young people but also to institutions for their support, making this whole activity so much more valuable. And to be part of this group like I was last year was special; sharing photographs of our islands in the Casa de Cultura in our capital city, where approximately 200 students from different institutions visited us. Not only did they see our photos, but we in turn shared with them how much we had enjoyed caring for nature through photography.”

Giving a talk on the use of photography as a conservation tool at the Institution of Art and Design in Guayaquil as part of an exhibition that took place in the Casa de la Cultura Nucleo de Guayas. Foto: Tania Munoz

As a photographer, I dream only of being able to continue to educate young people. I understand that I am not going to change the archipelago with my photography, but I can educate the future leaders to do it with theirs.

A normal day with my family swimming at Tortuga Bay, Santa Cruz. Photo: Diego Bermeo

Diego Bermeo is a photographer and environmental communicator in the Galapagos National Park Directorate. Founder of the project Young Photographers of Galapagos, he uses photography as a tool for conservation and to enrich cultural identity in protected areas. He lives on the island of Santa Cruz in Galapagos.

Instagram: @fotografodegalapagos

Website: fotografodegalapagos.com

Diego Bermeo is a photographer and environmental communicator in the Galapagos National Park Directorate. Founder of the project Young Photographers of Galapagos, he uses photography as a tool for conservation and to enrich cultural identity in protected areas. He lives on the island of Santa Cruz in Galapagos. Instagram: @fotografodegalapagos www.fotografodegalapagos.com
  • Lucy

    Muy interesante y hermoso articulo

  • Washington Tapia

    Congratulations Diego, your work is very important in order to contribute to get an Island Culture (Cultura Isleña), because this is the only way to get Sustainability in Galapagos

  • Daniela Hill

    I love the work Diego is doing with kids in Glps! Certainly, it is important to make sure they see what still is left, so they can protect it and do better than we are trying to do! Keep going!

  • Susana Carla

    Q honra q es decir q ers un grande profisional la perfeccion q mostra pr el mundo el encanto d la naturaleza q ten las Islas Galapagos .Felicitaciones d Brasil amigo.Deseo exitos en tu trabajo.

  • Dulce

    Excelente.Hace tiempo sigo su trabajo y es evidente la pasión que tiene por la fotografía, la naturaleza y los niños. Un ejemplo de vocación y dedicación.

  • Antonio A. Albán

    Diego Bermeo es un profesional por antonomasia, tanto en lo que nos descubre tras su lente investigativo, cuanto en lo que escribe con acento por la naturaleza y el encanto de las Galápagos.

  • Oswaldo Rosero

    Magnífica iniciativa de un excelente profesional. A las personas se las conoce en la medida de la nobleza de las causas que los motiva y por su entrega y compromiso inclaudicables. Ojalá tu semilla multiplique en muchísimos jóvenes Galapagueños.

  • Wilson Aracil

    Lo conozco en persona y es un gran profesional y en especial una gran persona un gran amigo.. Su trabajo es invaluable.. Excelente Artículo y considero que es el primero de muchos.. Sigue adelante diego.. eres un ejemplo para el mundo.. El mundo y la naturaleza necesita más personas como tu.. Sigue siendo un ejemplo.. Saludos

    I know him personally and he is a great professional and especially a great person a great friend .. His work is invaluable .. Excellent Article and I consider that it is the first of many .. Keep on going Diego … you are an example for the world. The world and nature need more people like you .. Still an example .. Regards

  • Noemi

    Excellent article Diego! You really lead us deep into your passion, your ability to share it and spread it contagiously to the youth of the islands and beyond, in a way which opens their eyes and minds and heart to a special connection with the unique place where they live.

  • Richard Wollocombe

    Diego congratulations with the work you have accomplished so far. It is an inspirational contribution to helping secure the future well being of Galapagos. The future of the islands will probably be determined by the level of passion, integrity and professionalism to protect and manage the delicate ecosystems of this very special archipelago. You have certainly provided a good example of how one person can make a positive contribution to preserving the magic of Galapagos for future generations of people and wildlife living in this fragil place together.

  • Abel Perez

    Que genial noticia mi hermano, sin duda has hecho un gran esfuerzo en dar a conocer y preservar el parque y todo lo que en ella habita, te felicito por este gran proyecto y no me sorprenderia que esto creciera exponencialmente, te mando todo mis buenos deseos y a seguir explorando y cuidado a este único mundo que tenemos

  • Jorge Ruiz La Rosa

    Diego mi Brother te felicito por el proyecto por esa entrega ese espíritu de cuerpo que le pones a cada una de tus fotografías para enseñar hacer conservación,conciencia y cultura a todo aquél que ame la naturaleza que ama a la tierra .Felicitación mi amigo mi Bro .. apoyo 100%

  • Charlotte Causton

    Felicitaciones Diego! The work that you are doing is fantastic and so important for the future of Galapagos!

  • Erika

    Un gran trabajo para nuestros jóvenes, que son inspirados con tus hermosas imágenes.

  • Ingrid

    Gracias Diego Bermeo inspiras con tu creación y la de los demás a sentir y darte cuenta por qué es importante conservar los ecosistemas y en general la vida animal. Tus fotografías hacen palpable y real ese entorno maravilloso que todos deseamos muy en el fondo proteger. Gracias nuevamente!

  • Danny Diaz

    Excelente trabajo mi amigo, cada exposición de tu trabajo tiene una gran connotación en los jovenes, y nos anima a querer conocer más de la isla a todas las personas. Felicidades! !

  • Junior Andrade Ballesteros

    Felicidades Diego!

    Es increíble el trabajo que haces en conjunto con los jóvenes galapagueños, transmitir esa pasión por la fotografía a cada uno de ellos es digno de admirar.

    Buenas vibras.

  • Venus

    Gracias por tu buen ejemplo para la juventud. Tu arte inspira y nos enseña a amar la naturaleza .Me encanta tu trabajo Diego !

  • Sole Lara

    Felicitaciones Diego es realmente admirable tu trabajo,la dedicación y el esfuerzo por preservar este lugar maravilloso! a través de tus imágenes pude conocer las Galápagos!! gracias por compartirlo en la distancia cariños desde la Patagonia Argentina.

  • Elena Albarado

    Diego.
    Cuando las cosas son observadas ( no vistas) con la retina del alma como lo haces vos , nada puede fallarte al final de una foto tomada, como nada falla en la Naturaleza de éste bello Galápagos Gracias por la posibilidad de ver a nuestras Islas desde otro ángulo.!!!!!
    Un abrazo

  • ChokoTrip.info

    Buen trabajo amigo

  • Tomas Pazmino

    Excelente Diego. Tus fotos permiten que el mundo conozca más de Galápagos, un paraíso donde los que alguna vez tuvimos el privilegio de vivir ahí siempre queremos volver. Un abrazo mi bro

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