Initial Project Overview Document

By Jason Murphy. First Published 18/12/2017 

Document Link: Sealives Initiative – Project Overview


“Imagine the world from space.”

I used to say this as a joke in project meetings. I used it as an cliche example of how every corporate brief would start if entrepreneurs had their way. I said it as a humorous way to get beyond the titanic, over-generalized self-regard of believing we were about to change the world so that we were better positioned to tackle the actual communication challenge at hand.

I am reminded of that joke now because I have realized that, for a moment anyway, I need to move through that ultra high level view if I am to bring shape to Sealives without delay.

Inspired by the conversations I had with people I had met during my Indonesia trip, I resumed my research into the wider world of marine conservation as soon as I returned to Vancouver, with the goal of finding a way into the problem of conveying how the problems facing our oceans are actually problems facing people. I hoped to find some lens that would allow me to envision a project plan.

At first I thought I had found that with the 29 Heritage Reefs under threat detailed in the June 2017 UNESCO report on climate change and reef health.

If you haven’t read it by the way, you should. You can find it here.

My idea was that this list of important places under threat was a handy filter that would propel me to a travel itinerary in short order and that although there are many issues other than reef damage due to climate change that need to be covered (pollution, destructive fishing practices, etc,) the bleaching event problem is by far the most pressing and seemingly intractable and I felt that opportunities to cover other issues would present themselves along the way.

I quickly rejected this approach as not organized enough. The goal here is to communicate how specific issues of ocean conservation relate to individual people in a compelling way. Starting with the 29 reefs alone was not a good enough guarantee that I would be able to use limited resources to do that. If I’m going to do this I need to be more certain of success.

To this end, and despite the obvious risk of hubris, I have stepped back as far as I can and taken a high level, not to say satellite view of the areas that the Sealives project will ultimately need to cover and have begun shaping this into a project plan with the conviction that although this plan will have to change constantly as I go along, having a plan that begins with the broadest perspective possible will allow me to make sure to engage with the specific issues that need to be included in a thoughtful way. To gives me a way to apply my creative mind rather than just following my nose in other words.

“Following my nose” by the way is something I love to do and in my experience I have found it often leads to the most interesting results. There will be plenty of that therefore, but at least it starts within a rational framework.

The document is available via the link at the top of this post. Here it is again if you missed it. There are some obvious things missing – I have no expertise in applying scientific rigour for instance so there is nothing here on how that will play a part in what on some levels could be seen as an ethnographic study of sorts. The document is not meant to be absolutely complete. Its meant to be enough of a start to begin considering who will be the subjects of the first sets of photographs and what the first expedition itinerary might look like. A matrix of possibilities defined by the items (or Subject Definitions) identified in each Topic Area (my name for large, easily defined chunks of the global narrative.)

So. Imagine the world from space. But only for a minute or two. Then plunge into the details with me, or at least, to begin with descend to a suborbital view.

The next step will be to look at each topic area and identify specific documentary opportunities that I can go out and capture. Specific blog posts on this will follow, interspersed with other stuff.