Original piece published by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation here.
Underwater photographer Keith Ellenbogen visited Washington, D.C., to present a series of his visually compelling images from Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, connecting government leaders to the stunning marine wildlife off the Northeast coast of the United States.
His presentation on September 26, 2019 to the U.S. Senate Oceans Caucus was hosted by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, with honorary co-hosts: Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), co-chairs of the caucus.
Within the United States there are 14 national marine sanctuaries that protect our ocean ecosystems. But few are aware that off the coast of New England is a dynamic environment with extraordinary marine wildlife that includes apex predators such as great white sharks, ocean giants like humpback whales, schools of mackerel, and an entire microscopic ecosystem of planktonic creatures that, paradoxically, are visible from space. Keith’s project Space to Sea— A Photographic Journey into Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary took the audience on a journey through imagery and environmental storytelling to spark imagination and transform public perception about the surprising diversity of marine life in the sanctuary off the coast of Massachusetts.
Sen. Whitehouse and Kris Sarri, president and CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, provided opening remarks to a room full of government officials and Congressional staff members.
Keith’s presentation also debuted immersive virtual reality experiences using Virtual Reality headsets, where audience members were able to “dive” with the Atlantic river herring during an annual migration as well as a 16 ft., 3,000 lb. great white shark — named Large Marge.
Keith’s Photography on Capitol Hill
These waters are among the most diverse and productive marine ecosystems in the world, home to a surprising array of marine life. Yet few of the people living along this crowded coastline are aware of the neighboring ocean ecosystem. Keith found placements for his images on Capitol Hill to showcase first-of-a-kind, large-format images of local marine wildlife aimed at using the art of photography to inspire ocean awareness and stewardship about marine life within Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, MA.
Photographing the underwater world within Stellwagen Bank is more challenging than within the warm, crystal-blue waters of tropical reefs. Waters are green and nutrient-rich due to an abundance of microscopic plankton, which limits the available light and reduces underwater visibility. Wildlife photography, especially in these conditions, require countless hours of patience, anticipation, followed by seconds of utter excitement when the critical elements of movement, behavior, light, and composition all come together into a single frame, allowing me to create an intimate connection to an animal in its habitat. Keith’s goal is to use photography to reveal the hidden underwater treasures along the Northeast coast of the United States so that others can also experience the beauty and wonder of our local marine wildlife.
Over the last couple of months Keith has been working with staff members to featuring his photography from Stellwagen Bank for several members of Congress.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), co-chair of the Senate Ocean Caucus, invited Keith Ellenbogen to share stories of marine wildlife off the coast of New England that are currently on exhibit within his office. The series of large-scale fine-art prints features Alewife river herring migration, longfin squid, dinoflagellates (microscopic plankton), and the symbiotic relationship of a jellyfish with juvenile haddock.
Congressman Seth Moulton (MA-6) invited Keith Ellenbogen to share his stories and experiences photographing the North Atlantic right whale. Congressman Moulton is the lead sponsor on legislation to save and protect the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. Their population is estimated at only 400 individuals — and they migrate through the nutrient rich waters off the coast of Massachusetts.
Senator Ed Markey (MA) hosts a broad selection of images from Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. The series highlights humpback whale breaching, close encounters with a blue shark, a fish’s perspective of a sea bird flying above the water, and a beautiful lion’s mane jelly with a juvenile haddock drifting in the open ocean.
Keith Ellenbogen is an acclaimed underwater photographer, Assistant Professor of Photography at SUNY/FIT, Visiting Artist at MIT Sea Grant, and the recipient of a National Marine Sanctuary Foundation Ernest F. Hollings Ocean Awareness Award.
To learn more about his project, visit space2sea.mit.edu.