Mention the word “sea” or “ocean,” and it’s true what legendary French explorer, scientist, filmmaker and photographer Jacques Cousteau said. This great body of water easily brings a sense of awe and calm just by gazing at it.
No wonder, in a world in quarantine, the lure to leave the city is a growing attraction among urban dwellers. The mere brush of sea breeze on one’s face and the rhythmic sound of waves transports one from an ailing world to a space where life — above and below it — thrives.
This fascination for the sea didn’t escape 17-year-old photographer Ganden Medved Po, the son of model-actor turned social entrepreneur Nanette Medved and Century Pacific Food Inc. executive chair Chris Po.
Ganden, as seemingly low-key and ordinary as his life is despite his affluent lineage, literally deep-dived into the underwater world to explore the beauty of the sea and to capture its wonderful images.
Fresh-faced with a ready smile, Ganden said in a recent virtual press launch of his book that his love for the water began when he was eight years old. He was swimming competitively while, at the same time, developing a love for photography.
He said: “The first time I started taking photos was probably on my parents’ old camera which they would use to document family celebrations and occasions. That was an old Panasonic camera.”
Ganden now has his camera of choice, the Sony Rx100, which has been his buddy in many of his adventures.
While most young men of his generation kept themselves busy on earth with school, gaming, sports, meeting girls — well, of course he did these things, too! — Ganden just did something more.
He’s now a senior high school student at International School Manila and is team captain of the varsity swimming team. He’s also active in various organizations including the Photography Club Council where he organizes events and workshops, as well as the Ocean ActivISM council, advocating for ocean conservation and sustainability. In July 2021, he became a member of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-Philippines National Youth Council.
And then Ganden got his first book published.
Life Below Water features visions of spectacular underwater gardens and marine wildlife Ganden captured between 2020 to 2021 as the world was being beseiged by Covid-19. He was privileged to have been mentored by the renowned photographer of this genre, Scott “Gutsy” Tuason.
Tuason is an accomplished underwater photographer who has held numerous photo exhibitions and published books.
At the virtual launch of Life Below Water, Ganden said, “Today is a very special occasion for me because I’m finally able to do a project I’ve been working on for seven months now. The Life Below Water book means a lot to me because it merges my two passions: Photography and the ocean. From a very young age, I’ve been raised underwater, often being brought around the many beaches of the Philippines. I’ve developed an interest in the oceans and the animals that inhabited the area. As I grew, I was mesmerized by the Blue Planet documentaries and the wonders of the ocean helped in advancing my love for the aquatic world.”
Of course, Ganden also rises as the son of his accomplished parents who are also known as
pro-environment. He’s making them extra proud as Life Below Water is a joint project with WWF-Philippines. All proceeds from the sale of the book will benefit the sustainable fisheries work of the WWF-Philippines.
Ganden, who is in the United States: said, “Photography has captured my heart almost equally as the ocean did. As the old and corny saying goes, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words.’ When I first took the photos, even if it was just a family celebration, I realized he power I have. The power to preserve memories.
“But as my perception matured, I watched the world change around me and I was exposed to life beyond the façade of beauty, the detriments of the ocean and nature were happening due to climate change and unethical practices. As I grasped these concepts, I fully understood the influence our ocean had on our human society. Economically, poor people suffered as nature died out with unsustainable practices. Food security and the industries that worked around them slowly suffered.”
WWF-Philippines executive director Katherine Custodio thanked Ganden for lending his talent, time and effort to promote awareness on marine conservation. “Life Below Water is a young person’s experience of the ocean, expressed through his chosen art of photography. The book is a reminder of why, what, how and for whom we do our work of protecting our oceans.
To purchase Life Under Water, visit the WWF Philppines website for details.