Monday, September 13, 2010

Great Bear RAVE Profile: Jason Sturgis

This month, the iLCP, a group of internationally renowned photographers are taking part in a RAVE (Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition) in British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest. Home to white spirit bears, ancient forests, and stunning marine biodiversity, it is one of the planet's most priceless treasures, but overseas oil interests wanting access to western Canada's tar sands, the second largest known oil reserves in the world, have put the region in threat, prompting the action of conservation groups and the iLCP. Throughout the expedition we'll be bringing you profiles, stories, statistics and photos to learn more about the region and why it's so crucial that we all work to protect it. Please follow along here on the iLCP blog, on Facebook and Twitter.


An experienced boat captain, Jason Sturgis grew up spending summers on the British Columbia coast, and learned to dive from his father at the age of eight in the warm waters of Maui, Hawai’i. His early love of the ocean and curiosity to explore led him to dive many of the worlds amazing places, like Indonesia, the Galapagos Islands, Cocos Island, and Palmyra Atoll. His extensive field experience and interest in the natural world led him to cinematography. Jason’s steady hand and free diving skills combine for some breathtaking views of the world, both above and below the water. In 2007, he created Open Oceans Productions to tell the story of the underwater environment and the communities that live there.

We caught up with Jason and asked him a few questions about his assignment in the Great Bear Rainforest...

Why is it important to save the Great Bear Rainforest? What’s at stake?

Saving the Great Bear Rainforest is vitally important because ecosystems such as these are so very unique and important to the West Coast ecosystem. The central coast of British Columbia holds such diversity of life and we frankly cannot afford to be half hearted in our protection and appreciation of this wilderness. As we have seen in places like the Gulf coast, there is no margin for error. Once a place like the Great Bear Rainforest is lost or sullied, it will be generations before things recover.

Why do you personally care about the Great Bear Rainforest? And have you ever been before?

I personally care about the Great Bear Rainforest because as a child I spent my summers with my family going all up and down the coast experiencing the magic of these places. The summer explosion of life was just heaven to witness and I can not fathom wild places like these disappearing. One day I want to me able to return with my children and give them the same exposure that I had. I know how much the experience enriched my life and it is paramount that this place be saved for the future generations to come.

How far did you travel to come and shed light on this important issue? What is your assignment on the GBR RAVE?

I started my journey to the Great Bear Rainforest in the town of White Horse in the Yukon Territory. This is not my home, but I was in the area on an earlier trip. So a few planes and ferry rides and I arrived in Hartley Bay. My assignment on this RAVE will be to film and document the underwater world around the Great Bear Rainforest.

What do you think the power behind a RAVE is?

I think the power of a RAVE lies in the ability for photographers and filmmakers to capture the beauty and magic of a place and then share those images with the rest of the world. Why do people care about places that they have never seen or will likely ever visit? I believe the interest and compassion starts from still and moving images that are brought to us so that we may dive into these foreign worlds and see them in a visually compelling way. I personally have never been to the Arctic but I have seen many photos and films and I appreciate the beauty and majesty of the area. So for me, caring started with a photograph. The nuts and bolts of RAVES are in making photographs but those photos ultimately inspire and are lead to caring. That is where the power lies.

Why is conservation photography, video and filmmaking such essential elements to the conservation movement as a whole, and this project in particular?

I think conservation photography and filmmaking is essential to the conservation movement because it introduces worlds to people that they may not have otherwise seen. Conservation starts with caring. Caring starts with identifying with a place and I believe photographs and films are an excellent way to achieve this. I think we are much more willing to protect places if we have been there ourselves. Second to the personal experience, is living vicariously through a film or a photo. The Great Bear Rainforest is a pretty isolated area so for the majority of people, a photo or film may be the closest thing they have to experiencing it. That is why I feel that it is vital for this project to shine the light on the Great Bear Rainforest with images that make people take notice of what an extraordinary place it is.

How do you tell a story via your films?

When I go out in nature to film, my mindset is that the stories are already there. Nature writes the best scripts. The drama and magic is all included, no re-writes necessary. So my real motivation is to try and capture those scenes in the best way that I know how. To bring back those stories intact so that others can see the beauty and the incredible drama that takes place in the wild.

What is the ultimate desired outcome?

For me the best outcome would be for people to have a better understanding and appreciation for what the Great Bear Rainforest is. Hopefully with that education comes caring. So my hope is that the photographs and films make people more aware of what is at stake when we make decisions that could impact an area such as the Great Bear Rainforest. There is only one Great Bear Rainforest and the decisions we make should be made with that in mind.

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