Emmy nominated director and award-winning National Geographic photographer and marine conservationist, Andy Mann makes use of his incredible images to in telling an account of the fast-changing world. Andy’s images are memorable and evokes the emotions in an image can affect our moods.

For the Photographers Without Borders (PWB) ongoing “Storytelling for Change” webinar series, Andy joined PWB founder Dani Da Silva for a discussion. Andy and Dani discussed his arduous journey to become an environmental storyteller, capturing breathtaking yet risky photographs, as well as his goals to change the world and how music affects his storytelling.

Da Silva: How did your journey to conservation storytelling start?

Mann The story began when I was growing living in the countryside of Virginia and having to be on the water all day. My father was a crab fisherman on the Chesapeake Bay. As a youngster, I was fascinated by sharks and marine life. It appears that there was some kind of seed or something that was ingrained in me that made me in this direction. I have a passion for nature.

My journey to becoming a conservation storyteller is a long and twisted route. I relocated to Colorado after I completed my studies in fisheries management at college. I returned to Virginia and worked for the Department of Fisheries and Game working on fisheries. I enjoyed it because I worked as a technician and earned eight dollars an hour. But I was on water each day. I realized that if I want to become a marine biologist or obtain an PhD however, I didn’t have the same opportunities. It’s usually tied to a desk and an institution at this point.

I relocated to Boulder, Colorado, with my college roommates, and I discovered the joy of climbing on rocks. It was an obsession that took me by surprise and eventually led me to purchase a camera. My aim was to climb as high as I could during my 20s, and I’d seen photographers climb on their trips. After that, I began learning the camera, which brought me through the world to a National Geographic adventure expedition–and then into marine conservation.

Da Silva: This is a stunning picture. How do you feel the significance of this photograph is?

Mann: I think people first consider, “Oh my God, you were so close to an alligator that didn’t want to bite you?” That’s awesome, as it’s a part of humanity that is a part of the image that people relate to. They are in the position for a brief moment. We must be able to imagine as a harmonious community with the wildlife and a healthy earth. It is important to imagine our lives there.

Da Silva: It’s interesting to think about the vision we have regarding the global community. What’s your vision for the world?

Mann To me it’s a complete fantasyland! We can create a stunning planet. Many of the most beautiful structures in the world today are eco-friendly, beautiful, and harmonious with the natural world. My vision for the world is to create a planet where animals are in abundance and also has a healthy and active human population.

Da Silva: What is the most valuable lesson you’ve ever received you would like to share with the rest people?

Mann This is about focusing on the story’s edges. However, the most valuable tidbits of information I’ve learned about being a storyteller comes from music. A story is like music. A great song aims to be a compelling story, while a good story is an excellent song.

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