I believe that my mission is to open a window that brings humanity closer to the oceans. Over the past centuries, due to both an element of mystery and a lack of knowledge about the huge mass of water that forms our planet, humanity became distanced from the seas. This distance has made it difficult for us to love and protect not only the oceans but also the living creatures within them. My goal is to bring part of the ocean to people and I use my photographs to do that.
RODRIGO THOME is a Brazilian director, screenwriter, producer and photographer, whose first-prize winning entry, The Ocean Voice, in international peacebuilding nonprofit CARAVAN’s 2020 Short Film Festival, beautifully presents the sea itself as the anthropomorphic subject of this stunning documentary. A diving instructor since 1997, Rodrigo has dedicated his life to the oceans. After many years of teaching people how to dive, and photographing the seas and its inhabitants, he decided to expand this enchantment and focus on producing audiovisual content connected to the aquatic life.
Involved in numerous television shows on diverse subjects such as night diving in the Galápagos, the flooded caves of Brazil and the sub-aquatic life of Alaska, Rodrigo was producer, director and photographer on the ground-breaking 14-episode series, Ameaçados [Threatened], which travelled deep into the habitats of endangered marine animals and examined their protection and welfare.
In this week’s guest post for The Culturium, Rodrigo shares both his beautiful ocean photographs and the short award-winning feature, as well as interviews he recently conducted with CARAVAN’s founder, Paul-Gordon Chandler.
What were the formative influences for your work?
I have had a close connection with the ocean since I was very young. As a child, I remember eagerly waiting to watch the Jacques Cousteau [conservationist and filmmaker] television series each Wednesday. And ever since I can remember, I always wanted to be like him.
Years later I became a diving instructor and my connection with the oceans became much stronger. Other strong influences have been Sir David Attenborough and his documentaries about our planet, which highlighted to me the need to spread knowledge about and empathy for nature. Both Ernest Brooks II, the late underwater photographer and ambassador of the marine environment, and the Brazilian photojournalist, Sebastiao Salgado, and his amazing black and white photos, taught me a lot about how effectively photography can communicate. Also, the nature photography of the Australian, Peter Lik, showed me how powerful images can truly be.
The Ocean Voice clearly conveys a message. Could you share with us why you find film and photography an effective medium to communicate with the audience?
All my photographs and authorial films are intended to create a connection—to connect the audience with their subject. The intention is to engender in the viewer immersion into the same feelings I experienced. And through empathy, I believe that we can make much stronger connections. Images are a powerful method to enable those connections that create empathy and can kick start an infinite cycle.
What are the major lessons you have learned during your career as a filmmaker?
I have learned that we can only connect people to our work when we are fully connected to it ourselves. It’s impossible to make the audience experience a feeling that you as a director don’t feel in your bones.
Have you been able to work during lockdown and adapt to the new reality?
I am still learning how to work during lockdown. As with most things in life, there’s a good and a bad side to it. I’m having more time to do things that I really believe in.
What are your aspirations for the future?
To spread more and more empathy with the ocean and its creatures. I want to open more windows to the ocean.
- Rodrigo Thome on Instagram
- Rodrigo Thome on Facebook
- CARAVAN: Peacebuilding through the Arts between the creeds and cultures of the East and West
- Paul-Gordon Chandler’s website
- Laura Emerson: Deep Sea Contemplation
- Laura Emerson: The Mystic Blue
- Ron Rosenstock: The Invisible Light
- Ansel Adams: The Search for Beauty
- Jerry Katz: Let the Scene See You
- Danila Tkachenko: Escape
- Andy Richter: Serpent in the Wilderness
- Andrei Tarkovsky: Instant Light
- Gabriel Rosenstock & Ron Rosenstock: Haiku Enlightenment