Early in life, Cathy Church was on course to become a bird watcher. She probably would have been a very good one, but the lure of the ocean, with its irresistible vastness, life and mystery, pulled her in a different direction. Ornithology’s loss was our gain as Church adopted Cayman as her home and steadily built up a reputation as one of the most talented and accomplished underwater photographers in the world.
Church deserves praise for the quality of her work. Her camera has captured stunningly beautiful and thought-provoking images from Cayman’s waters. Her book, My Underwater Photo Journey, is a masterpiece. More than another interesting coffee-table book, the work is powerful art with a powerful message. Church’s photographs, taken here and around the world, are unforgettable messages about the value and worth of our oceans. The book reminds us that we are fortunate to be surrounded by attractive waters and a rich variety of marine life. Abusing this treasure is unforgivable. The case for protecting our oceans is solid, whether argued from the angle of complex practicality or simple morality. The health of the Cayman Islands and the entire planet depends upon the oceans. We continue to abuse them at our own peril. ‘Failing to protect the world’s oceans,’ writes Church, ‘will ultimately matter more than anything else that we do; there is no drain to let us change the water once the oceans are polluted.’
It is not difficult to imagine the commercial value of Church’s work. How many people have seen and will see her photographs? How many have been and will be influenced to visit the Cayman Islands as a result? Her work is one of the best-possible promotional vehicles for our tourism product. A spectacular photograph of a French Angel swimming through an old wreck’s porthole, for example, is not easily forgotten. Long after viewing, it can tug at the universal human desire to be close to nature. A single photograph has the potential to entice someone to come here from thousands of miles away. The urge to swim into that Church photo, to make it come to life, undoubtedly is irresistible for many.
Thanks to Cathy Church, Cayman’s treasure is not lost. It stands proudly before the eyes of the world on the pages of her remarkable book.