Ganden Medved-Po became aware of the power of the still camera at age 10. Armed with his parents’ old Panasonic, he was already taking pictures as a young boy, documenting family celebrations, vacations, and everything in between. Until he started, in his words, “taking photos properly.”
“I realized photography was a way I could document memories in a way that's more artistic and has more emotion in it,” he says. “And that’s where it really started.”
It’s been seven years since and the eldest son of Chris and Nanette Medved Po has just completed a book called “Life Below Water.” A joint project with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines, the tome is a collection of Ganden’s ocean photography, introducing us to the kid’s other passion: marine life.
As with taking pictures, Ganden’s love for the water started at a very young age. By the time he was eight, he was into competitive swimming. But it was his deep connection to the sea that motivated him to come up with “Life Below Water,” which he only started discussing with WWF in January this year. Ocean creatures, he says, has been like second family to him. Through the book, he wants to remind us of our connection to nature—and to help people who benefit from the ocean. Proceeds from the sale of the coffee table book will go to the sustainable fisheries work of WWF - Philippines.
The man who mentored Ganden in ocean photography is veteran underwater lensman Scott “Gutsy” Tuason. The two met when a younger Ganden stepped into Gutsy’s store Squires Bingham Sports with his mother, the actress turned social entrepreneur Nanette, founder and chairperson of HOPE and Plastic Credit Exchange (Chris Po, chairman of Century Pacific Food, Inc. also happens to be a good friend of Gutsy).
“I don’t get a lot of people his age come to the shop looking for underwater cameras, so it was quite refreshing,” recalls Gutsy of that first meeting.
The older underwater photographer says the book is a fine showcase of Ganden’s range “and a good way to showcase marine life and bring awareness.” He believes the 17-year old has talent. “The most important thing for a photographer is having an eye,” the mentor says. “You got to have that first and the rest will follow.”
Underwater photography is not for everyone, according to Gutsy. “It’s the devil’s playground,” says the veteran marine lensman. “It’s a slippery slope, it’s a big commitment. It’s not just a matter of putting your iPhone in a housing and just going under water. You need to shoot great photos. It’s very technical. You need a lot of time.”
Which is why he is impressed by Ganden’s devotion to the work. “He’s up earlier than me,” says Gutsy. “When I get to the camera room he’s already there preparing all his gear. He’s a very motivated, committed young man. You didn’t have to tell him or guide him so much because he kinda knows what he wants. I just give him advice.”
Ganden says making the book has deepened his connection to the ocean even more. One of his favorite diving destinations is El Pinoy in Anilao, Batangas. “That’s where I saw the most interesting wildlife I’ve seen in a while,” he says, among them a Flamboyant Cuttlefish, one of his favorite animals. (FYI: Ganden’s current camera of choice is the Sony Rx100.)
Meanwhile, one of his more memorable adventures underwater was his first time to wreck dive, where he got to get up in front of an aircraft’s cockpit. “It kind of makes you think how the material things we own are all at some point going back to the earth to be reintegrated to the environment,” the young man says.
Ganden is now a senior at the International School Manila and captain of the varsity swimming team. He is also a member of the WWF Philippines National Youth Council. He says he is mighty proud of his collaboration with WWF because it combines his two passions. Through his photos, he hopes people will have a better appreciation of our oceans, "and to learn to care for them more."
For more of Ganden Medved-Po's photograph, visit this link.