Cayman Islands photographer Ellen Cuylaerts was at United Nations headquarters in New York last week to talk about the value of showing the ocean’s beauty through images that make people care.
Ms. Cuylaerts, who lives in North Side, also announced the winners of the U.N. World Oceans Day Photo Competition at the event.
She told entrants in the competition that their work had the power to change attitudes toward marine life and the environmental challenges the world’s oceans are facing.
She said the competition gave photographers from around the world “the chance to show the beauty in the oceans and tell a story with one image that would evoke the love of the viewers.”
“Once there is love for the ocean and all life in it, big or small, humans will try to protect it,” she said.
Ms. Cuylaerts, originally from Belgium, has won four categories in the competition in the past two years. She said it was an honor to be asked to speak at this year’s World Oceans Day celebrations.
“It is one of those things you can never imagine doing, to talk in public at the United Nations. But when it happened, it felt very natural and good. It’s an inspiring place, so much diversity and people willing to think about challenges and solving problems. There was lots of energy and good vibes. I felt at home.”
The event also featured speeches from leading U.N. officials, a performance by singer-songwriter Jack Johnson and a talk by Nainoa Thompson, a native Hawaiian navigator.
Ms. Cuylaerts said in her speech that winning the competition in previous years had opened up doors for her and helped her send a positive conservation message.
“As a former winner, I can also testify that this contest contributes in discovering new talent and young talent too,” she said. “They are the future, making sure the world of underwater photography experiences a refreshing breeze in storytelling and giving the winners more exposure, leading to more open doors and a louder voice in conservation. That’s what it did to me.”