Featured Photographer | Valentina Cucchiara  

Featured Photographer Valentina

 


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My name is Valentina Cucchiara. I am originally from Rome, Italy but I’ve lived abroad for over 25 years. I had always wanted to travel and work in something related to conservation, but I didn’t really know how, until by chance I was invited on a trip to the Red Sea and took my open water course before going. Once I dived into that ocean for the first time my world turned upside down, and I am grateful every day of my life for having encountered my true call and passion, which combines everything I love.

Once I started diving I couldn’t go back. Being underwater every day just made me feel on top of the world, and still does today. I became a dive instructor in 1997 at Camel Dive Club in Sharm El Sheikh, and worked at Sinai Divers with the most inspiring 'bosses’ I ever had, pioneers Petra and Rolf Schmidt.

That same year I was introduced to underwater photography by a colleague, and that opened up a whole new world of possibilities! I joined an expedition to Belize as a volunteer on a deserted island, running a coral survey for a few months, and from there I travelled to Mexico to dive the cenotes, where once again I fell in love for the endless opportunities given to me by diving.

It was Jeronimo Aviles who introduced me to underwater filming, and at that point I knew I was on my path. I lived in Mexico for two years and then moved back to Egypt where I started my own company, Liquid Jungle Media, offering media services at Oonas dive club, and Sharm was once again my home base. I became a tech diver, doing TDi and GUE courses, and began to get jobs filming for commercials or documentaries about tech divers, including Nuno Gómes, who made the Guinness world record deep dive in 2005, and Saving our Oceans with Carl Safina, a PBS series.

In between production jobs my partner and I joined Red Sea Explorers visionary founder, Faisal Khalef, on the MV Tala, a full tech liveaboard in the Red Sea. There we met Dive-Xtras founder Ben Mcgeever and became sponsored divers, excited to use those powerful DPVs to do dives that would have otherwise been impossible. Today I am Dive-Xtras dealer for Mexico, and love using my Piranha or Blacktip DPVs to take my camera anywhere, increase the time I have to do photography or filming deep into the caves.

In 2010 I got my first DSLR, and finally had the chance to return to photography, with a Canon 5D markII, while working in the Red Sea, later upgraded to a Sony a7RII, which is still what I use today. For filming I have recently upgraded to a Sony a7 SIII. After the 2011 Arab spring, with my partner Nick Poole – who had become my inseparable buddy in and out of the water since 2005 – we decided to move back to Mexico to be able to continue working professionally. 

Although my main job remains filming, since my return to Mexico I have been spending most of my time improving my underwater photography skills, and caves caverns and oceans of our amazing blue planet continue being en endless source of inspiration. Major discoveries have been made in the last 20+ years in the Mexican caves. My friend and mentor Jeronimo Aviles  had been working with INAH and had created with the help of the Museo del desierto de Cohahuila the Instituto de Prehistoria de Mexico. With Jeronimo now mostly working as an explorer and scientist, I have been lucky to join him on many expeditions documenting findings in the caves and filming for science documentaries.

Ever since I started diving, I have offered my skills to conservation projects wherever I have lived. So in Egypt I collaborated for years with Hepca and its director, the unforgettable and much missed Amr Ali, and was able to join the Red Sea Dolphin Project for the 5 years it ran, an experience I’ll never forget. I joined the Manta México Caribe project about 5 years ago, and am officially their media person, which is more than I could have ever asked for.

This year I joined Sea Shepherd Conservation Society as media for their science expedition to Revillagigedo archipelago, better known as Socorro islands, an underwater paradise amongst the most amazing I have been lucky to visit – another incredible and humbling experience.

I found a good compromise to keep doing what I love most – there are jobs that pay the bills, and jobs that are food for the soul, which pay in ways that can’t be quantified but are worth way more than money. And I still live and breathe daily underwater, the most rewarding life for me!

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1 Xibalba with Bernie Riviera Maya Mexico

Xibalba with Bernie,
Riviera Maya, Mexico 

 

3 Konrad blue world Riviera Maya Mexico

Konrad blue world,
Riviera Maya, Mexico


4 Caverns and mangroves cenote Jardin del Eden Riviera Maya Mexico

Caverns and mangroves,
Cenote Jardin del Eden, Riviera Maya, Mexico


6 Manta Mexico Caribe Project Isla Mujeres Mexico

Manta ray,
Mexico Caribe Project, Isla Mujeres, Mexico


7 Cenote Orquidea Riviera Maya Mexico

Cenote Orquidea,
Riviera Maya, Mexico


9 Cruising with Blacktip scooter in sunrays cenote Maravilla Mexico

Cruising with Blacktip scooter in sunrays,
Cenote Maravilla, Mexico


10 Brand photo shoot cenote Corazon del Paraiso Riviera Maya Mexico

Brand photo shoot,
Cenote Corazon del Paraiso, Riviera Maya, Mexico


11 In the sun beams cenote Maravilla Mexico

Sunbeams
Cenote Maravilla, Mexico


12 Marianne poster for short film Marianne by Eduardo de la Cerda Riviera Maya Mexico

Poster for short film Marianne by Eduardo de la Cerda,
Riviera Maya, Mexico


13 DPV divers in cave Riviera Maya Mexico

DPV divers in a cave,
Riviera Maya, Mexico


14 Eye to eye with a bottlenose dolphin Revillagigedo archipelago Mexico on campaing with sea Sheperd Conservation Society

Eye to eye with a bottlenose dolphin on campaign with Sea Sheperd Conservation Society,
Revillagigedo archipelago, Mexico


16 Dive Xtras Piranha photo shoot cenote Angelita Riviera Maya Mexico

Dive Xtras piranha photo shoot,
Cenote Angelita, Riviera Maya, Mexico


17 Fresh water tortoise cenote Angelita Riviera Maya Mexico

Fresh water tortoise,
Cenote Angelita, Riviera Maya, Mexico


18 Damselfish and halcyonarians Red SeaEgypt

Damselfish and halcyonarians,
Red Sea, Egypt


19 Giant manta ray Revillagigedo archipelago Mexico on campaign with Sea Shepherd Conservation society

Manta ray on campaign with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society,
Revillagigedo archipelago, Mexico 


20 Autumn cenote Aktun ha Riviera Maya Mexico

Autumn,
Cenote Aktun Ha, Riviera Maya, Mexico


21 The Cavewitch Riviera Maya Mexico

The Cavewitch,
Riviera Maya, Mexico


22 Betty Blue in cenote Corazon del Paraiso Riviera Maya Mexico

Betty Blue,
Cenote Corazon del Paraiso, Riviera Maya, Mexico

 

5 Green turtle Red Sea Egypt

Green turtle,
Red Sea, Egypt

 

29 humpback whale calf breaching Revillagigedo Archipelago Mexico on campaign with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Humpback whale calf on campaign with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society,
Revillagigedo archipelago, Mexico 

 

26 Silvertip shark Revillagigedo archipelago Mexico

Silvertip shark,
Revillagigedo Archipelago, Mexico



Find Valentina on her Instagram @valeoceano_liquidjungle and her website www.liquidjunglemedia.com

 


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