Our newest Affiliated Artist is Oriana Poindexter, an artist and fisheries scientist who takes her camera above and below the ocean's surface. Read the Q&A below to get to know the newest artist in the Alliance family!
Climate Science Alliance (Alliance): As a photographer, was the marine environment always your main subject?
Oriana Poindexter (Oriana): I was introduced to photography by a darkroom class in high school, and growing up in Laguna Beach, the ocean was an obvious subject choice. I then went off to college at Princeton, where the ocean was significantly less accessible. There, I focused my photography on the terrestrial landscape, and specifically the marks left on the surface of the land by human activity. When I moved home to Southern California, I discovered the Nikonos cameras, which finally let me take film photography underwater in a serious way. And as a grad student, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography opened the ocean up to me in an academic and professional capacity as well.
Alliance: How would you describe your relationship with the ocean?
Oriana: I am so lucky to have the ocean be such a large part of my life. To live and work within a mile of it, to be able to see, touch, and smell it on a daily basis is an honor. It’s everything – a place of refuge, of renewal, of destruction, of mystical beauty. It’s the governing natural force of the planet, but yet so vulnerable to the abuse of human governance. I plan to spend the rest of my life getting to know it better, and to continue trying to show others just how spectacular it is
Alliance: Describe a memorable moment free-diving.
Oriana: The first time I saw giant sea bass in the ocean was a visceral experience. It was one of those spring mornings where the fog is so thick you can’t see the shore from the kelp, giving you the sense of being suspended in time. The kelp was sparse and the water murky green at 40 feet deep. I was holding onto a kelp holdfast and looking at something else through my viewfinder, when I felt the water behind me move. Turning, I saw a dark, wide shape behind the kelp I was holding on to, a shape I couldn’t immediately identify. As it moved, I realized it was two giant sea bass, cruising slowly along the bottom together, each one about six feet long. They’re impressive fish, scratched and scarred enough to evoke a sense of gravity and respect.
Alliance: What role does climate change play in your life and art? What was your “climate moment” – the moment that made you want to do something about climate change?
Oriana: The kelp forests off the coast of California are my favorite place in the world, and they’re in trouble. Shifting climate and oceanic conditions are decimating the kelp forests, and despite their incredible resilience (they can grow up to 2 feet a day in the right conditions), the kelp just can’t handle water temperatures of 80°F. Seeing the decline of these underwater jungles is so, so sad, not just for me personally, but for California Current ecosystem as a whole. Kelp forests are home for hundreds of species and are stunningly beautiful – underwater cathedrals where beams of light filter through the canopy, dripping gold on everything below.
Alliance: Anything else you would like our partners to know about you?
Oriana: You can see a selection of my Marine Specimens series as a part of the Oddities Exhibit at the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla, CA. Two pieces from my Pacific Dreamstates series are part of the Climate Science Alliance’s Art of Change, the traveling climate art show. I am currently in the process of producing an exhibit titled Treasures of the Scripps Collections, which will be a traveling exhibit around the San Diego area in 2019. You can see more of my work, stay updated on upcoming shows, or buy prints through my website, or follow along on Instagram.