Photographer:Charlotte Piho
Continent: Australia Oceania
Country: Cook Islands
Project Title: bridging the gap: Human Emotions and Animal Emotions
Project Continent: Australia Oceania
Project Country: New Zealand
Nominated By: Craig Parry
Seconded By: Silke Hullmann,

Emotions are categorised using words such as love, happiness, pleasure, fear and vulnerability. Every photograph here is a brief of moment of stillness and connection between myself and the animal/(s) where we both replace fear with love and vulnerability. Allowing the animals ethereal beauty, emotions and personality to be felt by viewers of the photographs. My hope in photography has always been to help one connect with the animal and therefore work towards their conversation and protection of them.

Each of these photographs taken often with tears filling my mask  represents some of the most life-changing and emotional times of my life. Brings tears to my eyes truly just reliving these moments in my heart and head and remembering how despite whatever I was going through at that time, they gave me a greater appetite, appreciation and love for every moment of my life. And knowing how just like that your whole life can change, often for the better.

Each photo represents a moment of deep connection, trust and love with the subject/(s). They are presented in the order they were taken. I started my career photographing single animals, intrigued and drawn to connecting with them through their eyes and breath. I'm currently pregnant so I have in more recent times found more connection with families/schools of marine life and the beautiful connection between mother humpback whales and their calves. Each of these photographs was an extremely emotional for me. I would surface often screaming with immense joy or be so struck by the beauty of what I'd seen, felt and experienced I would be lost for words.

I've learnt through photography that we are all the same. Humans and animals. We all have distinct personalities. And we have the same emotions love, happiness, pleasure, joy, fear and vulnerability. Through understanding this we are able to move and connect with animals and learn and grow from each other. 

Turtle hugs

An intimate moment which launched my career as a photographer where a beautiful turtle stops amidst freely swimming through the ocean and lets go of its ability to move quickly lets go of fair and opens itself up to be vulnerable and looks at me eye to eye and appears to give me a hug Showing it s loving personality and soul Balled my eyes out as I surfaced Taken on a single breath


On my own inward journey with my breath 70 of the toxins inside of your body are removed through the lungs I have become extremely fascinated with photographing turtles breathing It s such a beautiful meditative moment to watch often what seems like a slow motion movie a turtle with so much satisfaction surface to breath and then re-enter the water filled with contentment Gives one a greater appreciation for how lucky we are to breath and live And how such simple moments are profoundly beautiful Life is short animals and how much joy they get from such simple things reminds us there is always something to be grateful for


A moment in time that went viral globally A video I shared of Aria the turtle blowing bubbles from her mouth reached over 800million views globally worldwide across social media channels No one globally had ever witnessed seeing a turtle blowing bubbles from their mouth while stationed deep in the ocean This photograph breaks boundaries between humans and animals Showing that just like humans animals also have personalities br Marine biologists and scientists all have said she was doing this to stay buoyant Having spent so much time with Aria the turtle and observing her I don t think there is any scientific reason This is just part of her personality She loves attention and doing tricks This photo breaks the boundaries between humans and animals Showing that we are all the same but so different We also both crave love connection and acceptance Here Aria the turtle is connecting with me letting go of her vulnerability and being exactly who she is


I was paddleboarding Saw this whale playing in the ocean outside of the reef so aborted my paddleboard and jumped in with my camera I then spent 40mins swimming freely with this beauty which continued to circulate me inquisitively Shot on a 35mm prime lens I was so close trying to capture the vulnerability in its eye through my tears No zoom used here I felt so drawn to this whale connected and safe By letting go of my own fear and vulnerably the whale did the same back br br This is a magical moment in time with a whale swimming freely Surrounded by nothing no boats just myself in the water Lifechanging for me br br Whales are symbolic of wisdom luck lasting love compassion solitude life unstoppable creativity inner truth emotional rebirth and peaceful strength I hope through this powerful photo these resonate with you For me it was a moment of vulnerability Letting go and believing in a deeper love

Circle of Love

Having mainly been focused with photographing subjects eyes to feel a deeper connection this photograph pushed me as a photographer Where I found a deeper connection from seeing animals connect with each other Taken on a single breath at great depths with natural light piercing through the darkness A once in a lifetime moment where a turtle swims past a school of eagle rays Eagle rays sit at the bottom of the ocean floor and move like lightning at any sign of a human and normally a turtle I had to dive deeply slowly not kicking at all but emptying my lungs to fall to the depths as to not disturb them and allow them to swim freely and naturally br It is very rare for a turtle to get close to a fever of eagle rays As they move quickly away from any animal or human Here though they surround the turtle and allow the turtle and both me to enter their space A beautiful moment where both animals and humans let go of fear and connect


Taken on a single breath 20 metres in the dark depths my soul is in this photo It emanates connection love letting go of fear and photographing with my heart not my head Replacing overthinking with presence br br After years of trying so hard to photograph them closely kicking fast diving deep trying to chase them I learnt that to connect and get close to rays or any animal you need to move like the animal Here I did not kick at all and got close to them simply through letting go of any need to breath and focusing only on them Putting all my love and energy on them br br Eagle rays symbolic of emotional freedom are one of the most intelligent animals on the planet Sensitive to the flow of energy If you approach them too quickly their profound graceful movements in unison vanish in a heartbeat - as do they Move slowly they sense your energy and you will have rare moments of connection This was such a beautiful dive for me Falling without fear into the depths and then any thought on myself My own desire and need to breath Replaced by a greater love for Eagle rays and connection br br

Mother love

Since falling pregnant I have grown so fascinated as a photographer on the connection of mother whales and their calfs To see subjects the size of a bus be so loving and protective of their children is profoundly beautiful br Here is a beautiful moment of love connection and playfulness between a humpback whale calf it s mother and myself A moment of stillness where time seems to stand still and I feel a loving connection between these whales as our eyes meet and we look each other eye to eye This image reflects both animal and humans need to feel connected loved and accepted

Heart Connection

As two bodies become closer so do their hearts A truly moving moment where a mother and baby calf turn and swim right towards me connected This photograph reminds us that animals are no different to humans There is a truly profound and special bond between a mother and her children My heart stops just looking at this and being reminded of the energy in the water when I took this photo People often say weren t you scared I can honestly say not in one moment Whales are massive but also the softest most loving and caring animals I feel nothing but love peace and truly at home in my happy place here Amazing how profoundly beautiful life can be and the connections we can make when we let go of fear and open our hearts up and vulnerably Animals will only replicate and give the same energy back


Whales are so big and full of character but in moments of stillness like this we are conveyed something that is really delicate and emotional I often surface the water after taking a photograph screaming or crying with immense joy Here I surfaced truly lost for words Just blown away by how when you are calm in the ocean and fully yourself not thinking about anything but what is right in front of you and that very moment how the universe and the animals do exactly the same These whales had been swimming around playfully for 40mins and then suddenly seem to just stop feeling fully comfortable with my presence

Ocean Fragility

A moment of stillness in motion that reflects both animals and the ocean s fragility The quality of being delicate and vulnerable This was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen or felt As a calf heads towards the surface as the light filters through the water bringing out their souls and personalities in their eyes as they look at my eye to eye