Ocean News

Meet the winners

1st February 2022

Introducing the winners of the Ocean Storytelling Photography Grant 2021.

‘A single photograph has the power to capture attention and in an instant shift what we feel, but if that image is part of a larger story, the potential for real impact is even greater. A well thought out visual narrative of multiple photographs not only invites a deeper understanding of the world around us, but can also inspire concrete behavioural changes.

Thomas Peschak, National Geographic photographer and Save Our Seas Foundation Director of Storytelling

It is with great excitement that we announce the four winners of our 2021 Ocean Storytelling Photography Grant. Congratulations to Acacia Johnson, Gabriella Angotti-Jones, Sarang Naik and Shane Gross! These four photographers showed exceptional talent in their applications, with great promise as storytellers. We are looking forward to working with them and fostering the next generation of great marine conservation storytellers.

Winners of the Ocean Storytelling Photography Grant 2021.

The winners will receive the following:

  • Each winner will be given a paid three-week photographic assignment to document an SOSF-supported marine research or conservation project. The SOSF has funded more than 400 projects in more than 85 countries and the winning photographers will be assigned to tell one of these stories.
  • Thomas P. Peschak, National Geographic Magazine photographer and Director of Storytelling for the Save Our Seas Foundation, Kathy Moran, former senior editor (natural history) of National Geographic Magazine and Jennifer Samuel, photo editor at National Geographic, will mentor the winners throughout the process.
  • All winners will be given the chance to showcase their work at an international conference or an exhibition, with travel expenses included
  • Each winner’s story will also be published as a photo essay for Save Our Seas Foundation.
  • A 2,000 USD cash prize
‘All four of our winners are simply outstanding – their striking imagery oozes narrative and demands attention. I feel truly humbled that the Save Our Seas Foundation has the opportunity to work with these uniquely talented individuals to create compelling marine conservation photo stories. It is a wonderful mix of emerging talent and world-leading mentors, and I can’t wait to see it all come together.’
James Lea, CEO of Save Our Seas Foundation.

A special mention must be made of the talented photographers who made it to the 11 finalists; Alejandra Potter, Anita Kainrath, Anthony Onyango, Henley Spiers, Jafet Potenzo Lopez, Joshua Vela Fonseca and Kate Vylet. Each of these finalists is an extraordinary photographer and we thank them for sharing their brilliant imagery and powerful storytelling with us. The competition was tight and we wanted to showcase their talent alongside the winners.
They will receive a one-hour portfolio review with either Kathy Moran, Thomas Peschak or Jennifer Samuel as well as a copy of Thomas Peschak’s book Sharks and People.


Find out more about our winners below:

Acacia Johnson


Alaska, United States of America


Acacia is working towards a career that makes a genuinely positive impact on environmental initiatives and decision-making. Photography is often used as a window into something, now she wants to find a broader use for her images and storytelling in action-oriented initiatives that go beyond photojournalism alone.


Visit Acacia’s website

Judges' comments

‘Acacia is already a great storyteller, and it will be great to see how she expands that into ocean conservation.’
Jennifer Samuel, photo editor at National Geographic.
‘I just love the way she sees, I love the way she thinks. I think she ticks all the boxes as someone who is committed to the craft of storytelling.’
Kathy Moran, former senior editor (natural history) of National Geographic Magazine

Gabriella Angotti-Jones


California, United States of America


Inspired by those who use their relationship with the ocean to help raise awareness about ocean conservation and regeneration, Gabriella’s goal is to continue highlighting communities whose identities intertwine with the ocean. Sharing action-oriented stories of those who are acclimating to our rapidly changing environment and bringing hope and inspiration rather than hopelessness.


Visit Gabriella’s Website

Judges' comments

‘I found her work to be really engaging and so creative; I suspect that any assignment given to her would be wildly and wonderfully original. If we can grow her underwater photography, it would be an interesting leap to conservation storytelling for someone with this kind of talent.’
Kathy Moran, former senior editor (natural history) of National Geographic Magazine
‘When you look at Gabriella’s work, you can just feel her creativity bubble over from every image. Her images are sometimes whimsical yet always thoughtful and consistently on point in terms of narrative. I was curious and engaged from the first to the last photograph. A much-needed fresh visual perspective that examines our relationship with the ocean.’
Thomas Peschak, National Geographic Photographer & Save Our Seas Foundation Director of Storytelling

Sarang Naik


Mumbai, India


Sarang’s goal is to tell stories that ignite a spark of curiosity and wonder in others. Work with conservation and research organisations to mould public perceptions, he wants to share the stories of India’s coastal, tribal and rural communities who have been consistently and often violently excluded from the conservation dialogue.


Visit Sarang’s website

Judges' comments

‘His work is really original, and I see someone who is young and creative who has real potential as a storyteller. We’re going to see something really exciting start to happen here as his career develops.’
Kathy Moran, former senior editor (natural history) of National Geographic Magazine
‘Many people consider rocky shores and other intertidal habitats to be dull and drab, especially compared to the coral reefs that inspire and draw in countless photographers. However, in his work, Sarang clearly shows that this could not be further from the truth. His images of rocky shores teeming with biodiversity that border the megacity of Mumbai could not be more surprising and original. He followed his passion and placed the fate of his career on an underdog marine ecosystem. Now his unusual photographs showcase the unique biodiversity and beauty of India’s intertidal shores to the world.’
Thomas Peschak, National Geographic Photographer & Save Our Seas Foundation Director of Storytelling

Shane Gross


British Columbia, Canada


On a mission to save the world, Shane hopes to continue making a living doing work that he believes in, supporting scientists, conservationists, and fellow storytellers. Knowing he’ll be doing this the rest of his life, all he hopes is that his health and circumstances allow it to be a long one.


Visit Shane’s website

Judges' comments

‘With Shane, what you see is a constant attempt to hone that craft of storytelling, and he’s completely committed to this kind of storytelling.’
Kathy Moran, former senior editor (natural history) of National Geographic Magazine
‘I can see that he’s always trying new approaches and techniques to make his images stand out.’
Jennifer Samuel, photo editor at National Geographic

The Ocean Storytelling Photography Grant builds on the legacy of our previous Marine Conservation Photography Grant and is dedicated to finding and supporting a new and diverse generation of conservation storytellers. While we look specifically for photographers who can tell conservation stories about our oceans, the grant is not limited to underwater photography. It is led by our own director of storytelling and National Geographic photographer Thomas Peschak, in collaboration with Kathy Moran and Jennifer Samuel from National Geographic.