Whale shark, Isla Mujeres
At the dawn of another year of this very fine 21st century, I thought it only fitting to feature a young lady who, as Y2K hysteria was ensuing, was herself a mere two years old. That’s right, this month’s Photographer of the Week, Margaux Maes, is only just 17 years old. Born in Belgium, she lives in Grand Cayman with her parents, underwater photographer Ellen Cuylaerts and underwater videographer Michael Maes, who, from what I can tell, have stopped at nothing to show Margaux and her brother Max some of the world’s most incredible marine creatures.
Margaux, who started diving when she was 12, claims she is a “nostalgic person with a horrible memory,” so snapping photographs, for her, is a way to solidify an experience. She began asking Ellen for lessons at the start of 2014, and has already excelled to a very promising level.
Sperm whale, Dominica
In asking her questions about her underwater experience thus far, you’d think you were chatting to a veteran with thousands of dives under her belt, for she casually chats about swimming with spinner dolphins, photographing tiger sharks, and getting “tail-slapped” by a whale with the coolness of one whose job it is to, well, get tail-slapped on a regular basis.
Diver Ken Keifer with tiger shark, Tiger Beach, Bahamas
But perhaps most remarkable about Margaux is her profound awareness of the environment. I asked her to impart some wisdom unto other teens and newbies, and her message was to both pro and novice alike:
“Don't push and pull animals to get them to do your bidding. Don't disregard or destroy plant life simply because it doesn't move as much as animals do. Don't assume coral can bear your weight and will grow back overnight; keep your feet off it. And perhaps most important, both for the environment and your own safety, don't go around touching stuff. Respect nature as you would respect another human being, and you should be fine.”
Vincent Canabal feeding a tiger shark, Bahamas
Face to face with a tiger shark, Bahamas
Lemon shark at Tiger Beach, Bahamas
The warranted selfie with a whale shark. “My mom had one and I didn't, so I felt it was necessary!”
Margaux Maes with tiger shark