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Solomon 2Nd Mate PIC
CREDIT: Peter Iain Campbell

Seafarers make waves on their visual voyages

A drilling rig worker. A marine ecologist. A commercial fisherman. They are united by their lives at sea – and love of photography. Now an exhibition of their images is lighting up their often-forgotten world

‘Solomon, 2nd mate’ by Peter Iain Campbell

In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic one group of maritime workers found themselves in limbo, unable to escape their ocean-locked ‘bubble’ for three months. A chief engineer and photographer, Popescu Cezar Gabriel, captured the experience as he and his fellow crew awaited permission to dock in Brazil.

Blowing Off Steam CG
CREDIT: Popescu Cezar Gabriel

‘Blowing off steam’ by Popescu Cezar Gabriel


His images, and those of five other people employed in the maritime sector, feature in the exhibition Exposure: Lives at Sea at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

“My relationship with the sea started about 21 years ago and for the first 10 I collected only memories,” says Gabriel. “Then I discovered photography and my life changed. At home or at sea, the camera became a part of me – my eyes, my voice.”

Self Portrait Stacking Pots CA
CREDIT: Corey Arnold

‘Self-portrait, stacking pots’ by Corey Adler


Laura Boon, curator of Exposure, explains the exhibition is an opportunity for people with an intimate experience of working at sea to tell their stories – and increase public awareness of the challenges they face – through inspirational photography.

“The ocean is vital for our day to day life yet we know little of the people who spend their working lives at sea,” says Boon. “When discussing the maritime world we often use big numbers – 50,000 merchant navy ships worldwide, over 85% of trade by ship – and the individuals involved can be overlooked. I was inspired to put the people right at the heart of the story.”

Precious Cargo JA
CREDIT: Jennifer Adler

‘Precious cargo’ by Jennifer Adler


Besides Gabriel, the exhibition features documentary and fine art photographer Corey Arnold, a commercial fisherman in Alaska, USA; conservation photographer Dr Jennifer Adler; Michał Krzysztofowicz, a data manager with the British Antarctic Survey; drilling rig worker Peter Iain Campbell; and marine ecologist Dr Octavio Aburto.

Melt Tank Push MK
CREDIT: Michał Krzysztofowicz

‘Melt tank push’ by Michal Krysztofowicz

Exposure: Lives at Sea is at the National Maritime Museum from 2 December. Laura Boon is the Lloyd’s Register Foundation Public Curator: Contemporary Maritime at Royal Museums Greenwich

Playground OA
CREDIT: Octavio Aburto

‘Playground’ by Octavio Arbuto


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