The worlds of ocean conservation and ballet don’t often meet in an underwater setting, but San Francisco-based artist and documentary filmmaker Christine Ren is doing everything in her power to change that while conveying an important environmental message in the process.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates that nearly 1.4 billion pounds (635 million kilograms) of garbage makes its way into the planet’s oceans every year.
Ren, with her credential as a professional ballet dancer and a Master’s degree in Marine Affairs and Policy from the University of Miami, is using her carefully staged imagery that requires months of planning to showcase how humans are perpetually taking the oceans for granted. Says Ren: “Through using a human canvas in my work, I hope to convey at a fundamental level that ocean conservation is a human issue.”
“My work focuses on raising environmental awareness for issues facing our ocean, so staging the images underwater is a natural choice. The underwater sets create a narrative bridge for viewers, bringing them into the heart and soul of the ocean realm.”
“As a professional dancer, and also in the science realm as a graduate student, I had both the access to witness and support to experiment with the power of bridging knowledge across genres of expertise. It was a natural idea at some point to think reflectively about what my own unique strengths were and how I might bridge my three main passions, dance, media and ocean science, into a cohesive body of work.”
“It took me seven years to make that first underwater photography series with Brett Stanley. Seven years of imagery ideas and dreamlike conceptions that no matter how hard I tried to put down, simply wouldn’t take no for an answer. It’s the something I can do.”
“Sylvia Earle, a powerhouse woman and ocean advocate, has also been a guiding voice and inspiration throughout my work. “No water, no life. No blue, no green,” as Sylvia would say. And seeing her speak at a University of Buffalo lab I was working at so many years ago was a pivotal moment in my career. She convinced me of the paramount importance to not only conduct research, but to communicate it. From there, I began the slow steps towards finding my own voice and way to make an impact.”
“A Japanese concept termed, “Ikigai,” also persisted in my mind for many years as I attempted to learn the language for a time. Ikigai is a concept, roughly translated, that means a reason for being. Finding it requires a deep and often lengthy search of self. Where does what you love to do and are good at intersect with what the world needs? What is your gift to the world? The one thing that you and only you can do in your unique way as a service to humanity?”
“I have so many plans for future works, it’s sometimes overwhelming. I fund the projects myself, so I am limited in my creation process currently only by finances. I’m currently working on two new concepts with Brett Stanley again, as well as Lana Chromium, an incredible body painter. We’ll be tackling ocean trawling and coral bleaching.”