It’s a pretty rare occurrence when a photographer snaps a gorgeous image, shares it with thousands of fans who adore it, and yet everyone — including the photographer — agrees that it shouldn’t even exist in the first place. That’s the case with a photo captured by Justin Hofman of the SeaLegacy collective which recently blew up on Instagram. The image, which is a tiny seahorse tugging a Q-tip, is both perfectly shot and a shameful commentary on humanity’s inability to control its own garbage.
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It’s a photo that I wish didn’t exist but now that it does I want everyone to see it. What started as an opportunity to photograph a cute little sea horse turned into one of frustration and sadness as the incoming tide brought with it countless pieces of trash and sewage. This sea horse drifts long with the trash day in and day out as it rides the currents that flow along the Indonesian archipelago. This photo serves as an allegory for the current and future state of our oceans. What sort of future are we creating? How can your actions shape our planet? . thanks to @eyosexpeditions for getting me there and to @nhm_wpy and @sea_legacy for getting this photo in front of as many eyes as possible. Go to @sea_legacy to see how you can make a difference. . #plastic #seahorse #wpy53 #wildlifephotography #conservation @nhm_wpy @noaadebris #switchthestick
“It’s a photo that I wish didn’t exist but now that it does I want everyone to see it,” Hoffman writes. “What started as an opportunity to photograph a cute little sea horse turned into one of frustration and sadness as the incoming tide brought with it countless pieces of trash and sewage.”
In this particular case, the seahorse wasn’t in any immediate danger from the piece of human trash it encountered, but that’s not the case for many ocean dwellers who are hurt and even killed after coming into contact with our refuse. Some are strangled or incapacitate while others mistakenly eat undigestible plastics. When the trash washes up on beaches, birds and land animals are subject to its destructive potential as well.
We’ve seen the results before, with entire islands becoming smothered in plastic and glass garbage which washes ashore. We can do better.