The Outlaw Ocean Series

I’ve been off here for a while and I really miss blogging. But I’m excited to share all that I’ve been up to lately. There’s the big one about my work as a co-author on a book with one of my professional and personal heroes, which I’ll share later. For now, I’m equally stoked to share my recent adventure working as a videographer/photographer with the New York Times.

Here we go: I joined Ian (a New York Times reporter) at the tail end a project that took him a year and a half to report and that spanned ten countries and took him far out at sea, including on some very dangerous ships. The New York Times had invested unprecedented resources into the project which focuses on lawlessness on the world’s oceans. With depth and journalistic rigor, the stories touch on a wide range of human rights, environmental and labor crimes that occur with impunity. It is the Outlaw Ocean series.

Standing on the deck of a 400-foot ship, hundreds of miles from the West African coast in the South Atlantic Ocean, I looked over at Ian Urbina, the reporter I had joined on this assignment. He smiled at me and said, “Game day.” I knew exactly what he meant.

For most journalists who report on the environment, land is their playing field. Rarely, do they venture offshore. I therefore jumped at the opportunity to work as a photographer alongside Ian, who has been an investigative reporter with the Times for over a decade covering everything from arms dealers, runaways, the oil and gas industry and workers rights.

For me, this was a new terrain. As a topic, it was bigger. It had global implications.
While the Times’ project dives deep into this sprawling and complicated subject, the coverage should carry distinct resonance for the African continent. Few places in the world have more interest in the sea than Africa. Annually, Africa loses over $1 billion because foreign vessels poach fish from national waters. Fishing is one of the continent’s major sources of revenue, with more than 12 million African fishermen. Piracy and other forms of maritime violence remains a major financial drain and source of instability. Poverty and war cause tens of thousands of people each year to flee Africa, sneaking onto ships as stowaways or brokered by human traffickers — and their fates at sea is often brutal and deadly.

You can check out all the amazing work by Ian and the team on this page. In the last part of the series, I’ll be posting my experiences working as a photographer with Ian, the reporter – getting lost on the high seas, bouts of sea sickness and the uncertainties involved in working on this series.

A renegade trawler, hunted for 10,000 miles by vigilantes
Silent Reality: The truths and tales of sickle cell.