How This Photographer Fights For The Environment With His Camera

Ever since he was a child, South Florida-based photographer Ben Hicks has been fascinated with the inner workings of nature. Growing up exploring the woods near his childhood home, the young Hicks learned to love being outside and observing the natural world around him.

Nowadays Hicks’ profession leads him all around the globe, channeling his passion for the environment into a career that’s spanned several continents. He’s well known for his work with waves and wildlife in particular, and readily admits over a phone interview that he has a deep affinity for aquatic landscapes.

“In general I really do enjoy going out in the water with my camera,” Hicks said. “I’ve gotten my start shooting professional surfers. I’ve traveled quite a bit around the world covering professional surfers mainly based in Florida and that’s really where I started to love shooting in the water.”

Hicks’ photography is very popular throughout South Florida, and many of his pictures feature the sunshine state’s signature wildlife as their subjects.

He acts as a brand ambassador for several different companies and his work is so well liked that numerous prints of it are often sold as phone cases and other merchandise online.

More important, however, is how Hicks utilizes his success to advocate and raise awareness for conservation causes that he’s passionate about. Sea turtles in particular are of an interest to him, with Hicks’ work often featuring them. Some of the species that he photographs throughout Florida are known for being especially vulnerable to human activity.

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“As far as my conservation work. It was really just natural because I was out there seeing the [trials] that they were having to face as far as environmental efforts being done to try to help sea turtles,” Hicks said. “And there’s just so many things that are really going against sea turtles as far as beach nourishment programs, pollution, and the lighting from condos and houses that trick the orientation of the hatchlings.”

Hicks first became interested in sea turtle conservation back in 2009. He describes accompanying a marine scientist friend on a daytrip to research the reptiles, claiming that this was the catalyst which helped set in motion his advocacy work for their preservation in the first place.

“I was amazed that I could use my photos to educate people and help save sea turtles and [aid] their ability to reproduce in our area. That fascinated me, and I was amazed that people could really listen just by looking at one of my photographs,” Hicks said.

The future of Florida’s sea turtles, much like the future of many of the state’s endangered species, is inherently dependent upon factors like public perception and education.

Hicks’ passion for sea turtle conservation is made evident through his extensive photography work as well as his collaborations with various environmental organizations.

Many of his most popular pictures even feature some of Florida’s more endangered species, most notably loggerheads and leatherbacks. He hopes that documenting the life and habitats of these animals will further raise awareness to the public about their struggle and spur people to aid in their preservation.

Over the last few decades Florida’s sea turtles have faced a myriad of environmental problems. Most of these issues can be attributed to humanity’s growing ecological footprint and the turtles’ ingestion of plastic bags, something Hicks himself is concerned with.

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“One of the main things with sea turtles is plastic bags, because plastic bags look like jellyfish. So [the turtles] eat the plastic bags and it goes in their stomach, and pretty much it’s a done deal once they eat one,” Hicks said. “So eliminating plastic bags is something that the U.S. is now really starting to grasp, not just for sea turtles but for many reasons.”

The future of Florida’s sea turtles, much like the future of many of the state’s endangered species, is inherently dependent upon factors like public perception and education.

Teaching people the ecological importance of these creatures and securing legislation to ensure their protection has been a difficult struggle for many activists, and even nowadays incidents still occur of turtles being harassed or threatened by locals.

When asked about any possible future projects, Hicks cited a children’s book he was planning on publishing in the next year or so, one that tells the story of sea turtle hatchlings entirely through photography. He also spoke of two upcoming exhibitions, one of them located in New York City and another in South Florida. Similar to Hicks’ other work, these endeavors will aim to emphasize the importance of wildlife conservation and environmental awareness.

“Nobody’s ever really told the story of hatchling sea turtles and how researchers are really making a strong effort to conserve their populations in the U.S. and the world with real photographs in a children’s book before,” Hicks said.

Photo Credits: Ben Hicks/ Facebook.

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About the Author
Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Bea Sampaio moved at age six to Hollywood, Florida before eventually attending Florida International University. A self-described science enthusiast, she's currently pursuing her Bachelors in Biology before going on to do graduate studies. She can often be found interning in a lab of some sort or (more recently) checking out Miami's local art scene. She likes surrealism and warm hugs.

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