As children, Rolex partners and conservation photographers Cristina Mittermeier and Paul Nicklen were captivated by their natural surroundings, which led them to cultivate a deep passion and respect for nature.
Mittermeier, a multi-award-winning photographer, grew up in the small, landlocked Mexican town of Cuernavaca, enthralled by the ocean when her dad first took her to the coast.
Acclaimed wildlife photographer, author and filmmaker Nicklen, spent his early years amongst the Arctic Inuit community on Baffin Island, in the Canadian territory of Nunavut.
These early experiences left a lasting impact on both Mittermeier and Nicklen, who have dedicated their lives and careers to highlighting the issues facing the world’s oceans and inspiring positive action.
Announced at the end of 2022, Rolex has partnered with Mittermeier and Nicklen to support them in their endeavours.
This new addition to the Perpetual Planet Initiative further strengthens and embraces its growing pool of partnerships and projects.
Across more than 45 expeditions, they have documented over 765 species and captured over seven million images and together, founded SeaLegacy, a non-profit organisation that brings together filmmakers, photographers, marine and climate experts, indigenous leaders and policymakers from around the world to build engagement and protect our oceans.
A voice for the ocean
In her youth, Mittermeier studied marine sciences, and realising the critical challenges faced by the planet’s oceans, she moved into visual storytelling and became an influential leading figure in the field of conservation photography.
“I realised I could build on my formal training as a biologist to become a voice for the ocean and its peoples,” says Mittermeier, who, throughout her career, has documented many of the untold wonders of the oceans.
Her multi-award-winning career has taken her to more than 100 countries, often on assignment for National Geographic magazine.
Among her many accomplishments were being named one of National Geographic’s Adventurers of the Year in 2018 and founding the International League of Conservation Photographers in 2005, providing a platform for photographers working on environmental issues and conservation efforts.
Mittermeier is supported by the Perpetual Planet Initiative for her evocative images of marine life and her determination to foster community action to protect the oceans.
She has edited and co-authored 27 books on conservation issues, mentors young conservationists and ocean advocates for whom she is a source of inspiration and encourages local people such as fishers to lend their voices to the conservation agenda of their countries.
On an international level, she is keenly sought as a public speaker at key conferences such as the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon in 2022 and at forums such as the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Telling stories through images
Nicklen’s immersion into Inuit culture gave him a rare understanding of some of today’s most threatened ecosystems, and how it is possible to live in harmony with the oceans.
Growing up without television and radio, and coming from one of only three non-indigenous families in his community, his deep connection and experiences with the Inuit culture taught him survival skills in extreme cold.
While out in the wild, he developed a passion for the extraordinary landscape and its animals.
Like Mittermeier, Nicklen began his career scientifically studying marine biology before becoming a photographer and has since spent his time documenting the breathtaking beauty of some of the Earth’s most extreme environments.
Nicklen’s dramatic images of our planet’s wild places – with a focus on the oceans – are used to raise awareness of the threats confronting them.
By expressing the raw beauty and fragility of the marine and polar environments through imagery, he underscores what is at risk without collective, global action.
His work is highly respected for highlighting the link between biodiversity loss and climate change, and depicting how our precious ecosystems are being pushed to the brink of destruction.
“I have been so affected by these people, places, species and ecosystems, that I simply cannot look away,” says Nicklen.
As a conservation photographer, his work involves documenting the link between biodiversity loss and climate to make the case for international action.
The assignment photographer for National Geographic magazine routinely risks his life in challenging environments, on land, on ice or underwater, taking the vivid photographs that connect a global audience with fragile species and ecosystems.
Nicklen has won over 30 prestigious awards, and is one of the most popular nature photographers on Instagram with 7.3 million followers, while his TED Talk on the ramifications of the disappearing sea ice was viewed 2.5 million times.
Raising awareness on ocean threats
Together with photographer and filmmaker Andy Mann, Mittermeier and Nicklen founded SeaLegacy in 2014, a non-profit organisation that uses photography and other visual media to raise awareness of the threats the ocean faces, but also of the tireless work being done to protect it.
The Rolex Perpetual Planet Initiative supports Mittermeier and Nicklen’s vision and values, enabling their messages to be shared with new audiences while they continue to provide a view of the oceans like no other.
In the two films they produced with Rolex’s support, the ocean is featured as a place of discovery and exploration that supports all life on earth, including our own.
SeaLegacy uses strategic communications at the intersection of art, science, and conservation to protect and rewild the ocean for the benefit of biodiversity, humanity, and climate within our lifetimes.
Together, Mittermeier and Nicklen campaign to protect more of the ocean, protect more species, harvest wisely, restore habitats, reduce pollution and recast the sea as a solution to climate change.
Perpetual Planet Initiative
For nearly a century, Rolex has supported pioneering explorers pushing back the boundaries of human endeavour.
The company has moved from championing exploration for the sake of discovery to protecting the planet, committing for the long term to support individuals and organisations using science to understand and devise solutions to today’s environmental challenges.
This engagement was reinforced with the launch of the Perpetual Planet Initiative in 2019, which initially focused on individuals who contribute to a better world through the Rolex Awards for Enterprise, on safeguarding the oceans as part of an established association with Mission Blue, and on understanding climate change via its long-standing partnership with the National Geographic Society.
An expanding portfolio of other partnerships embraced by the Perpetual Planet Initiative now includes: Cristina Mittermeier and Paul Nicklen in their work as conservation photographers; Rewilding Argentina and Rewilding Chile, offspring organisations of Tompkins Conservation, which are protecting landscapes in South America; Coral Gardeners, transplanting resilient corals to reefs; Steve Boyes and the Great Spine of Africa series of expeditions, exploring the continent’s major river basins; the Under The Pole expeditions, pushing the boundaries of underwater exploration; the B.I.G expedition to the North Pole in 2023, gathering data on threats to the Arctic; and the Monaco Blue Initiative, bringing together ocean conservation experts.
Rolex also supports organisations and initiatives fostering the next generations of explorers, scientists and conservationists through scholarships and grants such as Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society and The Rolex Explorers Club Grants.