National Geographic’s photographer David Doubilet and photojournalist Jennifer Hayes will be sharing their behind-the-scenes adventures on Wednesday, Nov. 18, as they present their journey from Antarctica to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, introducing sea creatures they meet along the way. “Coral Kingdoms and Empires of Ice” is part of the “National Geographic Live!” speaker series, presented by Breckenridge Creative Arts, at the Riverwalk Center.
Doubilet has been taking his camera into the water since he was young.
“I’ve been taking pictures, seriously taking pictures, ever since I was 12 years old,” he said. “The first time I dove was in a little lake in the Adirondacks. Actually it wasn’t a dive, it was more like a snorkel.”
Hayes shared the same passion for all things aquatic.
“I’ve kind of been addicted to aquatic things,” she said. “Not just marine, or ocean, but wet things, the liquid earth if you will.”
For Doubilet, the moment he put on his mask and dove in, life changed.
“I knew that putting your head underwater changed how you perceive this planet,” he said.“It was a fascinating way of capturing a moment. I was going into a world that not many photographers went into.”
Although he always knew he was going to be a photographer, Hayes found the camera calling through her first passion.
“I came to this unusual partnership with underwater through science,” she said. “I would go to symposiums and scientific workshops and meetings and presentations, and I would put up pie charts and bar graphs discussing this great fish I was studying called the sturgeon, which are magnificently big and amazing, and I’m using numbers and lines to describe them.”
She began to take pictures of the sturgeon in its natural environment to use for her presentations.
“Kind of out of necessity I began taking photographs to tell the story of these ancient creatures I was researching and to drive the point across,” she said. “I got so much better responses and listening amplitude from the audience when I put up these very cool photographs.”
Doubilet references “Earthrise,” the iconic Apollo 8 photograph from 1968, as one of the reasons he became an underwater photographer.
“It’s the first time that humans really realize how fragile and how finite their planet is,” he said. “There was much, much more for me and that’s the fact that this glittering sapphire of a planet, this piece of life, in an absolutely cold universe without life, is blue. And blue is the color of life, and blue is the color of water, and it’s 70 percent of our planet, and you can’t think of a better draw for a place to work and a place to see things. I can’t think of another place I’d like to be.”
It’s safe to say that a photograph resulted in a photographer when it comes to him and his work. With Hayes, she admits that she never really took her head out of the water.
“Most people would go into business, law, maybe (be) a veterinarian, but I kept my head underwater as my parents looked on with dismay,” she said. “I got a degree that translates into so many things, and it’s taken me to so many places and allowed me to experience jobs in every sector from private, government to university and now into storytelling. So it’s been a really great pathway.”
Through these paths and love of the water, it seemed like only a matter of time until these two became introduced to National Geographic, but for both, the opportunity came much earlier than later.
“I began to work for National Geographic when I was still at Boston University,” Doubilet said. “My senior year, I did a story for them, then the year after I graduated, I began another story. And that began a career.”
Doubilet worked with his professor, Eugenia Clark, on most of these stories for National Geographic. At the same time and unbeknownst to either of them, Hayes was working with Clark as well.
“When I was in graduate school at Maryland, my professor, Eugenia Clark — her alias was the ‘Shark Lady’ — had worked with David on a dozen assignments for National Geographic,” Hayes said. “National Geographic funded her to go out and research many topics and that’s what I was studying with her.”
Through Clark, a business partnership evolved between Doubilet and Hayes with National Geographic, and as the two worked together and shared their passion, a personal relationship grew, and the two are now married.
WHAT LIES AHEAD
They have a lot of work ahead of them and have been integrating more personal projects into their mix.
“We have a good story lineup,” Hayes said. “We’ve been taking on projects that have personal meaning to us.”
The two are headed to the Philippines in 2016 for National Geographic as well as having some work in Indonesia. Iceland and Greenland were also mentioned as some stops over the next few years.
“Our immediate goal is literally documenting coral reef systems in the most abundant bio-diverse places,” she said. “What are the places that are highest at risk? What’s here? We want to see it before it’s gone, record it and get in there and share it, then be a part of its evolution.”
On Wednesday, she and Doubilet will share their adventures and stories of the creatures below. From beluga whales, to fatal bites and even a rescue story, the two will share their experience with National Geographic and will present the “story behind the story” as they show battles and triumphs from Malaria to dolphin rescues. Tickets range from $25-$45. Kids and students are $10.