The boundary between land and sea is a place of rhythmic, entrancing beauty. This boundary isn’t fixed, but dances back and forth. Walking along a beach where the gentle waves lap against the sand — having lost their might no matter how big they were mid-ocean — you feel the water alternately dance up to you with an affectionate caress, then tug at you as if to invite you in, gently pulling the sand from around your feet.
The sea is one of the most immense and powerful entities on our planet. But here, where it playfully meets the land, it’s a humble friend. Like the night sky filled with stars, its timeless beauty is universal. “What enchants me about the sea is that it is universal but can be so personal as well,” says photographer Marina Vernicos, whose lens often dwells on this meeting of land and sea. “I choose this subject because, since I was a child, I have been mentally and physically split between these two worlds,” she says.
Her family ran a yacht business, so she grew up on the sea. When she was 11 years old, her father — Georgios Vernicos, a well-known businessman and political figure in Greece —gave her an SLR camera, and “since then, I’ve been photographing every day.”
She’s worked as a photographer for the past 20 years with great success. Her awards include a nature photography award from National Geographic in 2009 and a Global Art Award in 2018 (like winning an Oscar for visual artists). Her work has been displayed in prestigious galleries and museums, including the Louvre in Paris. She has worked with brands such as Mercedes and Hermès.
For a photographer, perspective is so important — how she sees the world, both literally and figuratively. “Travel broadens your horizons,” she says. “Once you travel and experience other cultures, your perception of the world changes.”
Vernicos has been to 126 countries. She was the first Greek woman to reach the North Pole. The beauty of Earth is diverse, she says. “French Polynesia is beautiful for its turquoise waters and natural beauty and marine life, India for its beautiful and historical temples and palaces, Palau for its unique mushroom-like islands.”
Not everything about her travels has been beautiful. There have been some hard lessons along the way, such as the time she was mugged on a beach in Jamaica or when she encountered the bureaucratic nightmare of getting her 7-year-old daughter back to Greece after she’d lost her passport in Chile (she has brought her three children along with her on many of her journeys).
These are some of the realities of travelling, but contrast — a balance of positive and negative — is found in life as in photography.
“Prior to visiting Antarctica in January 2009, I doubt I had been to a place where there has never been war, where the environment is so preserved, and birds and mammals are not afraid of humans,” she says. “Antarctica is like nowhere else on Earth and offers endless fascinating images.”
With all Vernicos has seen, she can still say without a trace of hesitation, “Greece is the most beautiful country in the world.”
“It is a country of beautiful contrasts,” she says. In her photographs, the stark white shores of Greece’s Milos island in the south or the peninsulas of Halkidiki in the north melt into the azure blue sea.“Nothing compares to our waters, our energy, and our light.”
People can literally wrap themselves up in these soothing scenes, as Vernicos has created silk scarves and other garments printed with her work. The Marina Vernicos Collection is at the intersection of two arts, photography and fashion design. Part of the proceeds from the collection’s sales go to We Dive We Clean, a group of volunteer divers who clean the seabeds off the coasts of Greece.
In 2015, Vernicos founded the charitable organization CREAID; its fundamental principle is “Create to Aid.” The organization asks prestigious designers to create pieces for auctions, the profits of which go to various aid programs in Greece. For example, a recent auction of designer lighting fixtures paid for the construction of a playground at Athens General Children’s Hospital.
This is part of the positive impact Vernicos wants her work to have on others. But she also hopes that each of her photographs will bring viewers into “a moment, a memory, and so many feelings,” she says.
“A photographer sees the world in a more honest, but also creative, way,” Vernicos says. It’s about showing people the icebergs of Antarctica or the temples of India in beautiful compositions, but also about drawing them into reverie. “I want people to feel serenity, to see beauty, to make dreams.”