Photographer wishes stunning picture ‘didn’t exist’
The powerful and poignant image shows a tiny sea horse holding tightly onto a pink, plastic cotton swab in blue-green waters around Indonesia.
California nature photographer Justin Hofman snapped the picture late last year off the coast of Sumbawa, an Indonesian island in the Lesser Sunda Islands chain. The 33-yearold, from Monterey, Calif., said a colleague pointed out the pocket-sized sea creature, which he estimated to be about four centimetres tall — so small, in fact, that Hofman said he almost didn’t reach for his camera.
“The wind started to pick up and the sea horse started to drift. It first grabbed onto a piece of sea grass,” Hofman said Thursday in a phone interview. Hofman started shooting. “Eventually more and more trash and debris started to move through,” he said, adding that the critter lost its grip, then latched onto a white, wispy piece of a plastic bag. “The next thing it grabbed was a Q-Tip.”
Hofman said he wishes the picture “didn’t exist” – but it does; and now, he said, he feels responsible “to make sure it gets to as many eyes as possible.” He entered the photo and was a finalist in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition from the Natural History Museum in London.
“I want everybody to see it,” he added. “I want everybody to have a reaction to it.”
Hofman, an expedition leader with EYOS Expeditions, said he was wrapping up an expedition in December 2016 when he photographed the sea horse. As he watched, he said his “blood was boiling.”
Hofman said the garbage had washed in, polluting their spot in the sea with sewage that he said he could smell and taste, and that the sea horse was searching for a raft on which to ride it out.
“I had this beautiful, little tiny creature that was so cute, and it was almost like we were brought back to reality – that this is something that happens to the sea horse day in and day out,” he said. A small sea horse grabs onto garbage off the coast of Indonesia.