Cristina Mittermeier is one of the most popular conservation photographers around the world however, her first passion was not the use of a camera. Cristina’s fascination with the natural world as well as below the surface, started in her early years and eventually led to her work as a marine biologist who worked on her native Gulf of California and the Yucatan Peninsula in her home country of Mexico.

After discovering the ability of photography to ignite enthusiasm for conservation work, Cristina began to use a camera to tell stories from the remotest areas of Earth. Today, she is a National Geographic contributing photographer, a Sony Artisan of Imagery, and Co-Founder and Managing Director of the non-profit organization for ocean conservation, Sea Legacy. Her name is synonymous with her sensory storytelling skills; Cristina has become the only female photographer to have 1 million people through Instagram and is also the editor of more than 25 books about conservation issues.

Cristina met with Photographers Without Borders (PWB), the organization’s founder, Danielle Da Silva, as part of the ongoing ” Storytelling for Change” webinar series. Below are edited extracts from the conversation, which delves into the secrets to powerful storytelling, Indigenous beliefs, the diversity of biodiversity, and the lessons from the global pandemic, and following your interests.

Danielle Da Silva: Cristina, You’re among the most significant change-makers I’ve ever met. Every problem is too daunting for you. What do you do to find the motivation to take on these challenges?

Cristina Mittermeier We share a network of acquaintances and friends who I’ve met throughout the years. People who are similar to you. Attention to those around you is vital. However, when I work with passionate people, It fills me with a sense of energy. I’m eager to rise early and go out in the field.

I’m also a mom of three children. I am constantly thinking about the world that we live in today. Yesterday, I looked out the window and observed a gray whale grazing right before me. I want my kids to be aware that there will be whales in the future when they get older. We’ll never be worrying about the apocalypse of the future. This is where I draw my energy – there’s no other option.


Da Silva: What’s unique about you is that you’re always at the forefront of storytelling in the fight for change. Could you explain the qualities that make a great story for you and why storytelling is vital?

Mittermeier: We are all born with the capacity to create stories. As children, we must sit down and learn math tables; storytelling is removed from our brains. Therefore, we must remember how to create stories. Many people get caught up in the minutiae. However, these do not matter. The major themes that we encounter in our lives are what counts. If you can take note of and pull information from many sources to make your tale relevant, you’re bound to be able to tell a compelling story.

I enjoy storytelling as a hobby. I often speak to myself in my car and tell stories to my neighbors, mother-in-law, and children to see what makes a difference. Most of the time, it’s authenticity to be more purposeful than just entertaining and passionate. This means being confident and not flinching to be passionate about what you are passionate about.

Da Silva, do you have tips for those who have an unintentional audience but are trying to reach out?

Mittermeier: Every follower is a joy to have. If I deliver an address to a crowd of 1,000 in a room, I feel blessed and happy when one of them will say to me in conclusion, “You’ve changed my life.” If the other 999 people were entertained, it’s okay. If you can change five people in your audience simultaneously, that’s fantastic. Because they’ll be able to be able to change another five. Therefore, the number of viewers is insignificant. What is important is the quality of your message.

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