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Fiji’s Natural Image Captures UN’s Interest

This has been made possible by Fiji-based photographer, Tom Vierus, a marine biologist who was accepted into the Emerging League of the prestigious “International League of Conservation Photographers” which is made up of the best nature photographers and storytellers in the world.

The winning image captured by photographer Tom Vierus. Photo: Tom Vierus

This has been made possible by Fiji-based photographer, Tom Vierus, a marine biologist who was accepted into the Emerging League of the prestigious “International League of Conservation Photographers” which is made up of the best nature photographers and storytellers in the world.

One of the photos he took while doing some studies in Beqa has won second prize at the United Nations World Oceans Day Photo Competition in the “Nature-based Solutions and Ocean Discoveries” category.

Pacific Media House founder and photographer,
Tom Virus.

It was in 2016, while accompanying his partner, Dr Amanda Ford, a coral reef ecologist and lecturer at the University of the South Pacific (USP), when Mr Vierus discovered that the people of Dakuibeqa were planting mangroves to save their surrounding environment.

“During one of our breaks, we got a tour of the mangrove reforestation efforts of the community,” Mr Vierus said.

He thought to capture the moment but did not realize it would create an impact on the international stage of the UN

“They told us that they were raising hundreds of mangrove seedlings that the Fijian Government then bought at a fixed price to be replanted throughout Fiji in their reforestation efforts,” he said.

“I thought this photo would be a perfect fit for the category and that I would shine a light on the importance of nature-based solutions and the great projects that Fiji is undertaking to support and initiate them.”

He said he had hundreds of photos in his library, and many of those were taken in various remote and not-so-remote parts of Fiji.

Another nature image captured by Tom Vierus.  Photos: Tom Vierus

Another nature image captured by Tom Vierus. Photos: Tom Vierus

“But I am glad I chose this one for this competition.”

Mr Vierus said it was important for developing countries like Fiji to amplify its voice through creative arts.

“I do believe that visual communication plays a major role in this, and photography and film have an immense power to reach large groups of people and evoke change,” he shared.

“There is a famous saying that you only protect what you love. And to love something, you first need to be made aware in order to care. This can be done through visual storytelling.”

Banyan tree at the coral coast in fiji captured by Tom Vierus.  Photos: Tom Vierus

Banyan tree at the coral coast in fiji captured by Tom Vierus. Photos: Tom Vierus

SAVE THE ENVIRONMENT

Mr Vierus is also calling on a collective effort to reduce the world’s carbon footprint to save the environment.

“As a world, and especially the industrialized countries, we need to come together and do more and faster to combat climate change and reduce the associated impacts, which are life-threatening for so many communities and countries worldwide,” he said.

Back in Germany, he won the ‘German Price for Science Photography’, which helped him make the decision to be a full-time storyteller and science communicator.

“It gave me a lot of exposure in the media, and I was able to talk about my shark research and the importance of shark conservation, reaching many people across the general public,” he said.

More nature images captured by Tom Vierus.  Photos: Tom Vierus

More nature images captured by Tom Vierus. Photos: Tom Vierus

He had also published a detailed open-access paper about his findings.

“But usually, these kinds of scientific publications are only read by other scientists and what was missing was the link between the scientists and the general public.

“After much deliberation, I decided to become a full-time storyteller and science communicator. It has been a long road since, with many ups and downs in the past six years or so.”

SHINE A LIGHT

Mr Vierus believed Pacific people must show their work in trying to save the environment on international platforms to make a difference globally.

“I will continue to document the devastating impacts of climate change, resource overharvesting, and natural destruction, always with the same goal in mind: to create the necessary change to conserve our planet and its diverse ecosystems for many future generations to come.

“I hope my work can contribute to increasing awareness which hopefully inspires more rapid action and translates into concrete measures.”

Reef manta ray portrait in Fiji captured by Tom Vierus.  Photos: Tom Vierus

Reef manta ray portrait in Fiji captured by Tom Vierus. Photos: Tom Vierus

ADVICE FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS

He said the road of a nature photographer and filmmaker was not straightforward or an easy one.

“There is no blueprint for how to be successful in this field, and it requires dealing with many setbacks and difficulties along the way. But the one piece of advice I would give to emerging photographers is to stay focused and keep working towards your goal.

“Patience and determination are key. It might take years to establish yourself and get noticed.

“Be proactive, reach out to organizations and individuals working in the field, and of course, work hard, this will help you achieve your goal.”

More nature images captured by Tom Vierus.  Photos: Tom Vierus

More nature images captured by Tom Vierus. Photos: Tom Vierus

WHILE IN FIJI

He said at the end of 2018, he decided to return to Fiji, and after several months of administrational struggle, he founded ‘Pacific Media House’, a photography and filmmaking company based in Suva.

He added that since then, he worked with many incredible individuals, NGOs, and other agencies, promoting their work, and telling their stories about their efforts in environmental protection, marine conservation, or the struggle with climate change.

Feedback: josefa.babitu@fijisun.com.fj

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