Keith Ellenbogen Brings Underwater Photography to the New England Aquarium

Underwater photographer and Boston native Keith Ellenbogen’s exhibition, Space to Sea: A Photographic Journey into Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, is on display at the New England Aquarium through Nov. 1. 

The exhibition contains more than 50 images that wrap the New England Aquarium, introducing the aquatic life that lives off the New England coast to the public. Focusing on apex predators like the great white shark to microscopic plankton, Ellenbogen’s photographs are at the intersection of art, science, and technology. They are bringing awareness to the life beneath the surface of Stellwagen Bank, a protected marine area east of the Massachusetts Bay.

Professor in wetsuit holding underwater camera with ocean in background
Keith Ellenbogen.

“The portrait of an animal allows us to look at it for a moment and relate,” says Ellenbogen, associate professor of Photography. He believes environmental storytelling is central to the conservation efforts of the area because it allows people to care about an ecosystem that they are not physically experiencing. “Once people realize that those animals are here, they develop empathy toward an environment that is part of their culture,” he says. 

“Each of those pictures took years to get. Those are my best pictures out of years of working and learning how to navigate local waters.” 

Using NASA satellite image processing, Ellenbogen’s team also created geographical representations of planktonic creatures that live off the coast. Each image requires 10 to 20 hours of processing and eventually takes form in pop-art colored “enhanced visualizations” of underwater environments. 

Ellenbogen has brought his research to FIT with One Atmosphere 33: Environmental Image and Storytelling Applied Arts Research Lab, funded by the Mark and Rachel Rohr Foundation. Each semester, he will select two paid student fellows to work on a series of projects that explore how visual media can create positive environmental change. The application for the fellowship will be released at the end of August. 

The program will run for three years and is open to all FIT students. —Dana Flores, Advertising and Marketing Communications ’22 


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