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Award-winning photographer calls for protection of Cook Islands marine life

Tuesday 5 March 2024 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Environment, National


Award-winning photographer calls for protection of Cook Islands marine life
Charlotte Piho and her family at the Xposure Festival in Dubai last week. SUPPLIED/24022981

Cook Islands photographer Charlotte Piho, who represented the Oceania region at the Xposure Festival in Dubai last week, received another photography award.

Piho, one of only two individuals selected from Oceania, told Cook Islands News last week: “Still can’t believe I’m even here, it’s a dream come true.”

“It’s absolutely mind blowing being amongst the best photographers in the world and having my work exhibited for the weeklong festival.”

Piho said she attended as many workshops as possible and used the opportunity to learn and grow from the best photographers and filmmakers in the world.

“A dream of mine has been to contribute to National Geographic and here I’m so fortunate to be amongst the best of the National Geographic team,” she said.

“This is the Olympics of photography, and it is a highlight of my career having this once in a lifetime opportunity to be here with my family.”

Piho also attended a Conservation Summit last week.

“We were reminded that ‘likes don’t save lives’ and the importance to collectively as artists invest our time and efforts in safeguarding our planet for the well-being of future generations. That we have a role in preserving the natural world.”

Piho said the summit is a cornerstone event of Xposure where they highlighted the urgency of the conservation mission through an opening video that showcased a compelling message: “There is no Plan B because we don't have a Planet B.”

“You can choose to look the other way, but you can’t say you didn’t know.”

Piho said she felt guilty of exposing Avaavaroa passage where the turtle tours operate through her work and it was never her intention for commercialisation and exploitation of the passage.

“My intention was to connect humans with animals so we can have empathy and hopefully protect these beautiful creatures. It breaks my heart to see a place I once freely swam with turtles, eagle rays and marine life in their natural beauty now changed.”

Piho said she has noticed a significant change in their behaviour from boats and the excessive use of photography with so many people needing the instant “like” for social media.

“It is my mission after this truly inspiring event to turn this around.”

She said at the summit it was highlighted that less than 10 per cent of the world’s oceans are protected by marine reserves.

“And that for the oceans to have any hope of surviving for our future generations at least 30 per cent needs to be protected. It is my hope that Avaavaroa becomes a marine reserve with the environment at the forefront of all decisions,” she added.

Xposure says: “What sets Charlotte Piho apart is her ability to grant a voice to marine life, forging an unspoken connection between the aquatic world and humanity.”

“Charlotte Piho, with her extraordinary talent, has not only redefined oceanic photography but has also become a storyteller, weaving narratives that inspire awe and foster a newfound appreciation for the wonders of the deep blue.”