Ocean News

Ocean Storytelling Photography Grant

8th September 2021

Stories spark the imagination and nurture ideas. They are, without doubt, our most powerful form of communicating and connecting, both with each other and with the world around us.


At the Save Our Seas Foundation (SOSF), we have a strong history of supporting marine conservation and education projects and believe that to truly translate knowledge into effective, meaningful change we must communicate through engaging stories. An inspiring or compelling story can spur positive action in ways that no presentation of facts can.

We are delighted to introduce our new emerging Ocean Storyteller Grant, which will focus on photography in its inaugural year. The photography grant 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.

This 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 are looking specifically for photographers who can tell conservation stories about our oceans, the call is not limited to underwater photography. Applicants should think broadly – story topics can range from the animals themselves to fisheries or the communities whose lives are intertwined with marine life. Four successful grantees will each receive a fully funded assignment to shoot a conservation photo story on location (including day rate and travel), under the direct mentorship of the Ocean Storytelling Grant team.

You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.’
― Ansel Adams


We are particularly seeking to support early career and emerging storytellers and aim to encourage new voices with new perspectives. Applicants should therefore have no more than five years of professional experience in any photography-related discipline. Moreover, we feel it is very important for the grant to be as diverse and representative as possible. More than two-thirds of our previous photo grant applicants were male and almost 80% came from North America and Europe. In an effort to actively remedy this geographical and gender imbalance that is pervasive throughout the industry, we especially encourage women and applicants from South and Central America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Africa and Asia, as well as underrepresented communities, to apply for this opportunity.
Applications will be accepted both directly via open call and through nomination.

We hope to encourage applicants from all backgrounds the world over as we search for exciting new voices in the field of conservation storytelling.

Find out more about the entry requirements here.

Photo © Justin Gilligan | Save Our Seas Foundation


  • Four winners will be selected for each grant.
  • Each winner will receive a US$2,000 cash prize and 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, senior editor (natural history) of National Geographic Magazine and Jennifer Samuel, photo editor at National Geographic, will mentor photographers throughout the process.
  • All winners will be given the chance to showcase their work at an international conference or an exhibition.
  • Each winner’s story will also be published as a photo essay for Save Our Seas Foundation.


  • The Ocean Storytelling Photography Grant application process consists of a one-stage online application. The form consists of a few questions and requires the submission of a portfolio (20 images) and photo story (10 images).
  • Only one application will be accepted from any one applicant.
  • If an applicant has any other current SOSF grant, they cannot apply for a new grant.
  • All applications will be reviewed by the Ocean Storytelling Photography Grant judging panel and require final approval from the Foundation’s Board of Directors.
  • If successful, the SOSF Grant agreement between the Foundation and the applicant must be sent back by the deadline. This agreement cannot be modified.

Photo © Joris van Alphen | Save Our Seas Foundation


Thomas Peschak

Thomas P. Peschak is a National Geographic photographer, explorer and fellow who specialises in documenting both the beauty and the fragility of the world’s oceans, islands and coasts. For National Geographic Magazine he has produced 10 feature stories that cover various natural history and conservation issues, ranging from manta rays to marine protected areas.

Originally trained as a marine biologist, Thomas embraced photojournalism 15 years ago after realising that his photographs could have greater conservation impact than scientific statistics can. He is a founding director of the Manta Trust and a senior fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers. His images have won 17 Wildlife Photographer of the Year and seven World Press Photo awards. Thomas has supplied the photographs and text for seven books, including Currents of Contrast, Sharks & People and Manta: The secret life of devil rays. He is a popular speaker for National Geographic Live, having presented more than 20 shows in 15 cities on three continents. His official 2015 TED talk, ‘Dive into an ocean photographer’s world’, has been viewed more than one million times.

Kathy Moran

Kathy Moran is National Geographic Magazine’s deputy director of photography. As the magazine’s first senior editor for natural history projects, she has been producing projects about terrestrial and underwater ecosystems for the magazine since 1990. She was the project manager for the National Geographic Society/Wildlife Conservation Society’s partnership documenting photographer Nick Nichols and Dr Michael Fay’s trek across Central Africa. The resulting stories were the impetus for the creation of Gabon’s national park system.

Kathy has edited several books for the National Geographic Society, including Women Photographers at the National Geographic, The Africa Diaries: An illustrated life in the bush, Cat Shots and most recently Tigers Forever. She was the photo editor for two collections of wildlife photography – ‘100 Best Wildlife Pictures’ and ‘Wildlife, the Best Photos’ – and recently curated ‘50 Best Wildlife Photographs’, an exhibition for the society’s museum. She was named ‘Picture Editor of the Year’ for her winning portfolios in the 2017 and 2006 POYI competition and the 2011 Best of Photo competition.

Kathy is a founding member of the International League of Conservation Photographers and currently serves on the board. She lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband and three bad cats.

Jennifer Pritheeva Samuel

Jennifer Pritheeva Samuel is a photo editor at National Geographic, where she produces stories about culture and the human condition. She edited many of the stories in the magazine’s 2019–2020 series highlighting women as well as the 2018 series on race and diversity. In 2019 Jennifer took second place as POYI’s magazine media visual editor of the year. Prior to joining National Geographic, she oversaw public programming for Photoville and managed the Anastasia Photo Gallery and Hank Willis Thomas’ studio. She was a co-founder and curator of the Brooklyn Photo Salon.

Jennifer is an avid swimmer and ocean lover. She briefly considered studying marine biology, but quickly realised this was mostly because she wanted to be underwater all day. After studying anthropology and photography at New York University, she was a Peace Corps volunteer on the Caribbean island of Dominica. She received her Master of International Affairs from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, with a focus on economic development and media. Brooklyn, New York, will always be her home, but she currently resides in Washington, D.C.

James Lea

James is a shark biologist and the chief executive officer of the Save Our Seas Foundation. Although his love for the ocean realm has taken his own career down a path of scientific research, this passion was inspired, and is maintained, by a deep affection for stories. From his grandfather’s tales of blue and porbeagle sharks, through the entrancing productions of Cousteau and Attenborough to the adventures of photographers (including our own Thomas Peschak) heard in an underwater camera store, stories have had a strong influence on him.

Indeed, James recognises the unique power they have to affect people’s world view. He is particularly excited to support emerging photographers to connect audiences with critical conservation issues through engaging storytelling – and in turn inspiring us all to be part of the solution and make a difference.

Jade Schultz

For nearly a decade Jade has been working with natural history images to engage audiences, raise awareness and tell conservation stories. As content manager for the Save Our Seas Foundation, she oversees the communication interface between the foundation and its audience and has witnessed at first hand the power of strong imagery as an aid to storytelling and science communication.
Under the mentorship of Thomas Peschak, Jade has learned how to discern between a good image and an image that will not only stand out and grab the viewers’ attention, but will educate and inspire.

In an age when people are bombarded with information and seem to only scan a page or timeline rather than read, a good image is an extremely powerful tool to have in your storytelling arsenal to engage the reader, elicit an emotional response and communicate an important message.

Jade is passionate about conservation and effective communication, as well as exploring the various mediums available to inspire others and hopefully drive conservation change. While it is always exciting to work on video, illustration and other multimedia projects, photography remains her passion.



Applications open: 6 September 2021

Applications close: 30 November 2021, 18:00 CET.




Winners announced: In the first quarter of 2022

Assignment: 2022



Photo © Mac Stone | Save Our Seas Foundation



Fighting for Reef Fish – by Joris van Alphen

Sharks Safe, People Safe – by Mac Stone


Urban Pioneers: Florida’s Marine Wildlife – by Justin Gilligan

Islands in the Stream – by Shin Arunrugstichai