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Interview: Michel Roggo, freshwater photographer and explorer extraordinaire

January 13, 2014

Michel Roggo may be the quintessential modern-day explorer. Instead of taking back samples of his journeys, he captures them with his camera. This week we are featuring a three-part interview with Roggo, who talked to the BioFresh blog about his amazing freshwater photography, his latest work, The Freshwater Project, and some tips and tricks for budding freshwater photographers.

Michel Roggo at Lake Baikal, Siberia

Michel Roggo at Lake Baikal, Siberia

BioFresh Blog: Michel, thanks for speaking with the BioFresh blog and welcome. Tell us about The Freshwater Project: what is it and what inspired you to do it?

Michel Roggo - UnderwaterMichael Roggo: I started photography in the countless crystal clear rivers and lakes of the Swiss Alps. In 2010, with twenty five years experience photographing freshwater landscapes, animals and plants and about a hundred expeditions worldwide, I decided to work on a global effort: The Freshwater Project.

BB: Why?

MR: Well, we know what coral reefs look like, but what about the creeks, streams, lakes and ponds on our doorstep? I’m always looking for new and interesting scenes with the most dramatic light. A marsh pond, beneath the ice in a mountain stream, among algae – these habitats are hardly ever seen but they are incredibly beautiful.

The goal of The Freshwater Project is to take pictures of around thirty special freshwater locations, places that are spectacular, mostly different from each other, and of an unbearable beauty and therefore very important. In short, our aim to produce a photographic record of important freshwater environments from across the globe, focusing on underwater images. To date, twenty four locations have been photographed (which you can see here).

Verzasca River, Swiss Alps.

Verzasca River, Swiss Alps.

BB: What motivated you to team up with the IUCN freshwater programme?

Michel Roggo - ExploringMR: First of all, I am doing this project for myself, as a photographer. I just had to do it: searching for this magic moment under the surface, with the perfect light and composition. At the same time I know that many of these freshwater ecosystems are under threat. It breaks my heart to see how quickly things go bad. But I’m not Bruce Willis. I can’t save the world alone. So it makes sense to team up with an important and global conservation organization like the IUCN. I have already worked with NGO’s, on national and international level, for example in the Amazon with WWF. But when Will Darwall, Head of the IUCN Freshwater Biodiversity Unit asked me for a cooperation, I was very happy. Now I can jump into the water and do my job, and the IUCN can use the images to help to save the Blue Planet of Freshwater. They have to do Bruce Willis’ job.

Michel Roggo diving into Lake Baikal

Michel Roggo diving into Lake Baikal

Stay tuned for part 2 of the interview this week.

If you want to see more of Michel extensive work, visit

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