Brian Skerry looks at Humpback whales in Maui. (Steve De Neef / National Geographic / ABC)
California School of the Arts

Photojournalist Brian Skerry followed young animals for Nat Geo’s ‘Born Wild: The Next Generation’

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, National Geographic premieres “Born Wild: The Next Generation,” a journey through diverse environments to witness the lives of baby animals and their habitats. Revered National Geographic explorers and ABC News-correspondents showcase the world’s ecosystem with Earth’s next generation of animals. 

Brian Skerry, a world-renowned National Geographic Explorer and photojournalist, followed a baby humpback whale and its mother in the oceans of Maui.

“I’m just into my 50s now and I remember that first Earth Day. Back then, Earth Day was a celebration of the planet… I think it still should very much be about that, but the reality is… we’ve seen so much more damage occurring to our planet,” Skerry said. “We are at this pivotal moment in history. We can look back, and we can look ahead. The decisions we make right now are going to determine our future.”

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A humpback whale breaches off the coast of Maui. (Steve De Neef / National Geographic / ABC)

Skerry found his passion in adventure and photography, diving at the young age of 15. With dreams of becoming an adventurer, he committed his time to capturing photos and making a statement about environmentalism. He has been diving and shooting for over 40 years and has worked as a contract photographer with National Geographic for over 20. 

“Human beings are visual creatures and we respond emotionally to powerful images. We often remember pictures for the rest of our lives. The value of photography is that we can provide visual context to many of these issues like climate change or endangered species,” Skerry said. “It’s one thing to read about it, but because we are visual creatures, a single photograph can make all the difference.”

He references other photojournalists like Bill Curtsinger, Michael “Nick” Nichols and Chris Johns that inspired him to tell stories spreading awareness for conservation. He covered stories from commercial overfishing in 2007 to the protection of underwater ecosystems in 2017, featured four times as National Geographic’s cover story.

“National Geographic underwater photographers have historically done great exploration stories and beautiful stories about animals,” Skerry said. “It was those guys that were doing terrestrial wild life stories and conservational stories that really led me to do some of the very first ocean conservation stories at National Geographic.”

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Brian Skerry listens to humpback whale songs in Maui. (Steve De Neef / National Geographic / ABC)

His commitment to this job has awarded him with dozens of titles and achievements, from “Wildlife Photographer of the Year” to being a founding member of the International League of Conservation Photographers. Skerry hasn’t had a vacation since 1993, hiking with his wife in the Grand Canyon. Since then, he’s either been out in the field or planning for the next expedition. 

“I love what I do… It is work but I don’t think of it that way. For young people that want to do things, you can make those discoveries, but you really need a strategy. You need to formulate a plan,” Skerry said. “It’s really about passion and having a strategy to approach it like a business, even though your passion may be creativity or discovery or something else.”

Beginning at 8 p.m. PST on April 22, “Born Wild: The Next Generation” will premiere on Nat Geo and Nat Geo WILD as a part of a joint effort by National Geographic and The Walt Disney Company to remind us of why we should protect our planet. 

“This special is a rare opportunity to look at mostly juvenile animals as a way of framing what the future will look like. We’re asking the question, what will the next 50 years look like for these animals?” Skerry said. “We’re creating a much bigger footprint with carbon and plastic. It’s a time for us to celebrate this beautiful planet but also pause and think about how we can do things better.”