22-year-old Argentine underwater photographer swims with marine life, advocates for ocean preservation

Being next to a 14-meter whale shark felt extraordinary. I remember getting goosebumps and feeling really afraid for a few seconds before embracing it. To this day, I still recall every second of that experience.

  • 1 year ago
  • May 16, 2023
6 min read
Nicolás Marin is a 22-year-old Argentine underwater photographer, diver, activist, and National Geographic explorer. Former semi-pro tennis player, he dedicated his life to nature preservation and documentation. He is fascinated by sustainable projects that have an impact beyond social networks.
Over 200 kilos of plastic are thrown into the ocean every second, with 70 percent sinking to the seabed and 15 percent remaining floating. These tiny plastic pieces are found in food, water, and skin creams, affecting not only our health, but our ecosystems, too. We must act now before it becomes too late.

BAJA CALIFORNIA, Mexico — When I dive into the ocean, I feel like an astronaut exploring the moon. The magic happens when crabs walk along the ocean floor and whales fly above, while I float in the middle of the vastness. As an underwater photographer, I merge three of my passions. I use photography as a visual tool to captivate people, apply science to understand the subject of my photos, and advocate for change.

At the age of 23, I decided to dedicate my life to the ocean and create audiovisual reports showcasing incredible marine life. At the same time, I advocate against the pressing issue that affects us all: the environment and its fast decline. Unless we change our habits, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean in a few years, and entire ecosystems face destruction. 

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Swimming with octopuses and whale sharks 

As a child, my closest encounter with the sea was in Mar del Plata, where we had a family home and spent most of our vacations. I struggled to swim, so I spent my time watching animal documentaries on National Geographic. Some of these programs revealed the depths of the ocean, which intrigued me. I stared at the explorers and their advanced equipment, and yearned to know how they reached those remote locations.

Never did I imagine I would be doing it as a career myself. I felt unsure of what career to choose. I contemplated studying biology or journalism, but felt they were too lengthy, so I opted for short courses that allowed me to diversify my learning. After I enrolled in a photography course, I worked as a creative in an agency, but the monotony of the job led me to resign. 

While studying, I received a job opportunity from a traveler in Mexico who required an underwater photographer and a social media manager. I reminisced about my fascination with Animal Planet documentaries and expressed my eagerness and passion for the underwater world. Despite my limited experience at 19 years old, my enthusiasm and intentions landed me a job among 1,300 applicants and led me to Mexico.

In Cozumel, an island near Playa del Carmen, I received training as a diver and began working in coral restoration while documenting the process. On September 15, 2019, on my birthday, I saw a whale shark for the first time while on a diving expedition to observe their feeding behavior. It felt so memorable, and it inspired me to continue capturing the wonders of the ocean. My photographs featuring underwater animals such as octopuses and whale sharks gained recognition and garnered interest from several brands. 

Dedicating my life to ocean conservancy and working for National Geographic

At the time, I used to be afraid of diving, but I decided to face my fear and learn. Now, I can’t imagine my life without it. Every time I felt anxious while diving, I knew something big was about to happen, and it always did. I felt excited for the future. As I traveled across the oceans, I connected with National Geographic and became a young leader on the subject.

In 2021, prompted by media coordinators, I applied to be a NatGeo explorer, which involves receiving money and support to protect the world through my work in science, exploration, education, and storytelling. The feeling that accompanies me when I’m underwater feels inexplicable. It’s like being in a new world, full of art, colors, and species. It brings me pure happiness. 

Being next to a 14-meter whale shark felt extraordinary. I remember getting goosebumps and feeling really afraid for a few seconds before embracing it. To this day, I still recall every second of that experience. Night diving is also another incredible experience. I witnessed octopuses and other creatures hunting. Nature feels so exciting to me, and I still cannot believe I get to do this job for a living.

I passionately fight against environmental pollution as an activist and militant. Before, I did it out of personal interest and free will, but now I do it professionally, too. The issue of micro-plastic pollution is a major concern for humanity. In the next 10 years, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. Fish consume those micro-plastics and then humans eat them. Eventually, it will also damage our air, as 80 percent of our oxygen is generated by the ocean. 

We are rapidly killing our ecosystems, and we must take action now

The ocean undoubtedly remains one of the most vital ecosystems for humans’ well-being. Seeing its slow decline fills me with dread. Currently, garbage is accumulating in six plastic islands formed by marine currents worldwide. The largest of them, located between Hawaii and the Pacific, is three times the size of France. During dives, one can find a substantial amount of plastic waste, including disposable items such as cutlery, bottles, and fishing nets. This garbage is often mistaken for food by marine creatures such as turtles, which can result in suffocation and death. 

The first time I saw a manta ray, it was stuck in a net. We were in the Galapagos at the time and luckily, we managed to free it, and watched it swim away. However, some species are not so lucky and do not survive. Whenever I come across these situations, I feel so much sadness and anger. I am currently involved in the Pacific Migrants project, which involves me registering and documenting marine animals. The project aims to produce two documentary capsules and post them on social media. We spent the first stage on the Galapagos Islands. There, I recorded the migratory route of hammerhead sharks and giant manta rays. 

Currently, I am in Baja California for the second stage, which involves documenting gray whales, orcas, sperm whales, and humpback whales with their calves. I go out to sea every day, traveling to my exploration point in boats with local captains. We spend hours underwater. I also enjoy inviting people from the community or the area to share this unique experience with me. I now understand that activism requires immediate action. We must stay united and keep fighting. Otherwise, we will not be able to survive on this planet.

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