Joanna Lentini

Ocean Artisan Series — Joanna Lentini

Joanna Lentini
Image © Eliot Ferguson


Welcome to the third episode of our Ocean Artisan Series where we highlight artists inspiring others with their ocean artwork. At the end of each month we will raffle off one of our Ocean Artisan’s donated pieces to help support OWO Initiatives!
This month’s Ocean Artisan is Joanna Lentini

You can either have a listen to the interview or read through the transcript below!
Bryan Mineo:  Hello, ocean lover friends, this is Brian from One With The Ocean. I’m excited to share with you guys our Ocean Artisan Series. This month’s Ocean Artisan is Joanna Lentini. She is an award winning photographer and writer based in the Hudson Valley Region of New York, and she was recently awarded as the grand prize winner in the National Audubon Society’s Photography Awards for an image of a double-crested cormorant hunting for prey underwater. 
And it is remarkable. 
Joanna began documenting life below the waves nearly a decade ago and has worked on projects for a variety of conservation organizations, publications and brands across Southeast Asia, Europe and North America. Joanna has become good friends of ours here at One With the Ocean and I’m excited to dive into this conversation with her and talk about what connects her to the water. So, Joanna, welcome to Ocean Artisan’s…
Joanna Lentini:  Thank you so much for having me and for highlighting my work. I really appreciate it.  
Joanna lentini
Grand Prize — Audubon Photography Awards
Bryan Mineo:  Absolutely! So my first question here, and I always like to start here, is what came first for you, your love of photography or the ocean?

Joanna Lentini:  So it’s really tough to say, you know, as a child growing up in New Jersey, I loved going to the shore, but there was definitely something about the unknown that intimidated me back then. But I was obsessed with the natural world from a young age, and I messed around with photography as well. But, you know, I didn’t take it seriously until about a decade ago when I got certified to scuba dive. 
I had probably watched more ocean documentaries prior to that than I care to admit. But those underwater scenes really compelled me to not only dive, but to do so with the intent of documenting what I encountered and sharing that with others. I had a small point and shoot camera with me for my very first dive, and I haven’t really been diving without some sort of camera ever since. So I suppose the ocean came first, well, really nature in general.



Valenciennes Lace
Bryan Mineo:  I love that ! And for you, when was the first time you have a recollection of really feeling one with the ocean?
Joanna Lentini:  So in the beginning, I had a lot of hang ups when I first started exploring the ocean, which I have mostly overcome. Getting comfortable in the ocean was a bit of a process, but I was really determined to keep going. I distinctly remember a dive trip in the Maldives early on in my diving days where my partner and I needed to surface earlier than the rest of the group. 
We were running low on air and as we ascended I felt a bit of anxiety. It was my first time leaving a group underwater. We were low on air and I was wondering if we would connect with the boat when we got topside. They were expecting us a bit farther along. But this anxiety was suddenly transformed on my safety stop (5 meters below the surface) when I spotted a dolphin. 
It was my first dolphin underwater and it was floating vertically in the distance, just looking at me. It was so brief, but it completely relaxed me. And I spent the next few minutes just embracing the solitude and the weightlessness of that space. My worries just seemed to completely disappear. And after that, diving got a whole lot easier. And so I think that’s really, you know, around the time that I started to feel one with the ocean. 
79º North
Bryan Mineo:  That’s very relatable, and I can say the same whenever you do see wildlife in the ocean, there’s something about that that is ultimately humbling and connecting to nature that it’s almost hard to put into words. So I love hearing your story about the dolphins and an animal that I’m very passionate about here in Southern California as well. 
What is it for you about the ocean that inspires you?
Joanna Lentini:  So the ocean is the last frontier on this planet, really, right, and I have always been drawn to wild places. And while many of our wild spaces are being turned into manicured urban areas the ocean provides us with one of the last spaces where we can truly reconnect and feel free of modern society. 
Besides the obvious things that come to mind, like its beauty, and biodiversity, the ocean has taught me so many things about myself, that I may not have ever learned. It has helped me grow as a person, conquer my fears, and it has been a great source of happiness, excitement, and even humility, and I really feel like I owe it it so much.
Bryan Mineo: Absolutely, yeah, it is this beautiful, three dimensional space that we have really only scratched the surface of exploring — I can certainly relate to that along those lines.
Bryan Mineo:  As far as being in the ocean, who or what inspires your ocean photography, your work? 
Joanna Lentini:   Well, without fail, I’m always inspired by the natural history documentaries that the BBC creates. It’s like I mentioned earlier, I’ve always been fascinated by nature, but after a period of disconnect from it, it was like programs like the Blue Planet, Planet Earth, and Nature’s Greatest Events that really helped to reignite my passion for nature and our oceans, our wild places. 
I also started recently listening to this Natural History podcast called Trees A Crowd by actor David Oakes, and he chats with some fascinating people about the natural world and has this way of doing so that just really calms the mind and kind of gets the creative juices flowing. 
Bryan Mineo:  So, yeah, nice. I love it. Well, I know that you have a fascination with all things nature, not just the ocean. So I have to ask what is your favorite place to photograph? 
Joanna Lentini:  Well, I love the Southwest. I don’t know if I necessarily have a favorite place, but that’s definitely up there. The southwestern U.S. and Mexico, the colors, the landscape, the people. I spent a lot of time on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. Well, I should say maybe below Mexico’s Baja Peninsula.
I’ve organized and led a few trips out to the Sea of Cortez, where we spend time camping on the beach, photographing the stars, swimming with whale sharks, sea lions, and night dives with mobula rays. At other times, I’ve encountered orcas, blue whales, humpback sharks and even dolphins. It’s this magical place that I keep returning to each year, although this year is a bit different. But I do hope to get back there sometime soon.
Joanna Lentini
Bryan Mineo: I love that. Yeah, for me as well from really Los Angeles County, going south all the way to where the Pacific meets the Sea of Cortez. I spent a lot of time in those waters and encountered a lot of those same animals. And it’s a really special, special, diverse, magical place to be. So it’s neat to hear you’ve had some of the same experiences.
As far as your work goes, what do you hope people take away from your photography?
Joanna Lentini:  Definitely a sense of wonder, respect, and duty to protect the natural world. I think that we are lacking that very much as a society. I also I also hope to inspire others to get out of their own comfort zones and explore the world around them a bit more. Research shows that we have become so disconnected from nature and as we become disconnected from nature our ecological literacy and stewardship of our wild places decreases as well.
There are so many studies out there that show the positive impacts of time in nature. So many of us are suffering from an epidemic of inactivity. And I know it can be intimidating, but pushing our boundaries, opening our minds to new experiences, and possibilities is how we grow as individuals and as a society.
Joanna Lentini
Bryan Mineo: So, yeah, absolutely. And as a community at One With the Ocean that’s precisely how we connect together, through the water. The ocean literally connects us, and it also does mentally as well and in a very growth inducing kind of way. 
Well, Joanna, this has been awesome. I love talking to you and learning about your photography. Your stuff is just super, super beautiful. And I’m excited to dose this out over the next month to all of our donors and all of our members or participants to see the beautiful work you have. So thanks for taking the time to talk today. 
For anyone that’s interested, please head over to her website…. or check her out on Instagram
Joanna, you are amazing. Thank you so much. 
Joanna Lentini:  Thank you so much, Brian. Appreciate it!!
Bryan Mineo:  All right… take care!
Joanna Lentini
Ocean Artisan — Joanna Lentini
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