Conservation From Above
Fine art photographer Drew Doggett, 30, got his start in fashion working alongside some of the biggest photographers in the business, including Annie Leibovitz, David Sims, and Steven Klein. But in 2012, eager for new scenery and subject matter, Doggett set out to photograph some of the world’s most endangered cultures and landscapes, traveling to Namibia, Nepal, and Nova Scotia, among other remote locales, to capture people and places that have survived against the odds.
Drew is based in Charleston, South Carolina, but grew up in Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay. His memories on the water became the inspiration for his most recent collection, Sail: Majesty at Sea, a visual homage to some of the world’s most rare America’s Cup racing yachts, which date as far back as 1930. “I first learned to sail on a Sunfish,” Doggett laughed. “But growing up I had the privilege of being a passenger on and an onlooker to some truly incredible boats that inspired me to seek out the ones you see in these photographs.”
Like his previous collections, Drew’s sail series focuses on boats whose future didn’t always looks so bright. The Shamrock V, pictured in Drew’s photograph Shamrock Rising, was commissioned by Englishman Sir Thomas Lipton (of Lipton Tea fame) to help him seek revenge after he lost the America’s Cup of 1920. Despite being the biggest sailing yacht of its time—not to mention a technical and aesthetic marvel unlike any the sailing community had seen before—Lipton lost the cup in 1930.
After decades of neglect, the boat was not far from following other yachts of its era to the scrap yard. But thanks to the booming economy of the 80s and 90s, Shamrock V, along with many of the other boats pictured in Drew’s sail collection, was carefully restored by a private collector.
While the beauty of these antique yachts has been preserved for future generations, the story hasn’t been so good for the waters they ply. After receiving an email from his childhood friend Michael Hunt, founder of WaterShed Vision, a consulting firm dedicated to creating and protecting clean watersheds, Drew set out on his most personal project to date: capturing the widespread pollution that threatens the waters near his home on the Chesapeake Bay.
Decades of farm and urban runoff, sewage overflows, and industrial pollution have sickened the Bay with toxic algae blooms. These blooms muddy the waters, blocking sunlight from reaching the Bay floor, ultimately suffocating and killing the animal and plant life that depend on it. “As much as I love the Bay, I had no idea this was going on,” said Drew. “That’s pretty alarming.”
In August, along with WaterShed and SouthWings, a non-profit group of aviators that volunteer their time and aircraft to conservation causes, Drew took to the air to document the pollution, which is so large that it’s almost impossible to see from the ground. “I’ve spent the last 28 years of my life on the Bay, and I’ve never noticed these blooms,” said Drew.
The hope is that circulating these photos will help create awareness and inspire action to protect a waterway that is special to him and the many others who call it home. “I’d love to be able to return here with my camera in 20 years and be able to capture the Bay as it was 150 years ago,” said Doggett.
To do your part to create awareness and take action for the Chesapeake Bay, consider sharing these images on social media, tagging @southwings @watershedvision @drewdoggettphotography. You can also donate online to South Wings at southwings.org.
Words by M.K. Quinlan. Photography courtesy of Drew Doggett.