Euan Rannachan says his shark images became his ‘artistic way to advocate for these animals’
You may not have heard the name Euan Rannachan, but you’ve likely admired his work. His photos of Great White Sharks have been featured in publications — and on a slew of merchandise — around the world.
But Euan’s love for the arts started above water, at a very early age. As a toddler, he diligently watched his mother create oil paintings, sculptures, and sketch in her notebooks. She shared her knowledge of oil painting with Euan shortly after he learned to walk.
Euan went on to play semi-professional soccer, which allowed him to travel to Eastern and Western Europe. There, he experienced the region’s deeply rooted and diverse artistic expressions.
He later earned a degree in traditional illustrations from the Academy of Art College in San Francisco. He’s expanded his work to encompass a range of mediums, including acrylic, digital, airbrush, pencil, ink sketches and, of course, photography and film.
As a kid, he never imagined his love for the arts would lead him 10 feet under water surrounded by sharks. But what started as an interest in seeing these massive beings up close has led him to use his photography as an advocacy tool to save them. His shark images were some of the first to portray the artistic side of these mysterious creatures.
“Hollywood portrays sharks as dangerous and terrifying. It’s my goal to show the other side of these apex predators through my photos and videos,” he said. “I hope my images convey just how beautiful white sharks can be.”
Diving in the deep end
Artistic Fuel: How did you get into shark photography?
Euan: I’ve been obsessed with sharks since I was a kid. I didn’t know it was possible to dive with them. I saw these black and white photos of sharks by a Dutch photographer. They were the first shark photos I’d seen that were captured for art reasons, showing sharks in a better light. Not these man-eating monsters that everyone likes to think they are. I sent him an email asking about opportunities to shoot photos of sharks. I wasn’t expecting a response back. But he wrote back and said this is what you need to do. At the time, I couldn’t afford to go, with a new house and our first kid. But finally in 2015, I went on my first trip.
Artistic Fuel: What was that first diving trip like?
Euan: Honestly, the very first time I got in the cage was scary. I kept thinking, what the hell am I doing? It’s an out-of-body experience that’s really rewarding. The more I went down there and spent time with the sharks, the more I realized just how much misinformation is out there about them. People either love or hate sharks, there’s no in between. It can be very polarizing. My photography became an artistic way to advocate for these animals.
Why save sharks?
Artistic Fuel: What message are you trying to convey through your photography?
Euan: I hope my images convey just how beautiful white sharks can be. There’s much more to sharks than people realize. They’ve been around since the dinosaurs…They have a lateral line across their body that senses when a nearby animal is in distress. Sharks can feel your heart beating when you’re in the water with them. They also have regenerative properties. We’ll see sharks with these cuts all over them and then the next year, they’re all healed. Their tissue regenerates at an incredible rate and scientists are trying to figure out how. They believe there’s something we can learn from them. So there’s a lot of benefits to keeping these guys around.
Artistic Fuel: Shark photography isn’t your full-time job, right?
Euan: No, I’ve worked as a graphic designer and corporate photographer for Clorox for almost 10 years. They’ve really been instrumental in this work, though. I have to give them a lot of credit. They’ve let me run wild…They have a gallery of my photos in their Oakland headquarters. I’ve been lucky to have that job, and I’m appreciative to them.
See them for yourself
Artistic Fuel: You’ve also partnered with another photographer (Nikki Sevy) to create a diving company (Be a Shark) to get more people to see sharks up close. Tell us about that.
Euan: We take three trips a year down to Guadalupe Island each year, in August, September and October. It’s an 18-hour boat ride from Ensenada, Mexico, but it’s one of the best places in the world to see white sharks. There are over 325 individually identified white sharks around Guadalupe Island. It’s also a great spot to see fur seals, northern elephant seals, orcas, even whale sharks.
Artistic Fuel: What has been people’s reaction?
Euan: It’s pretty amazing. People say “I’d never do that. That’s terrifying.” Then they come down and dive with us and walk away totally changed. They say, “what else in my life am I saying no to because I’m scared to do it?” The first dive is pretty moving. Some people cry. For me it’s about taking people who are tentative and watching that rewiring happen. It’s really rewarding.
Cost to take a diving trip off Guadalupe Island starts at $3,295. Learn more about the various trip options at beashark.team. Follow Euan’s work on his Instagram (@euanart), at beashark.photos or euanart.com.
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Journalist and author Danielle Nadler grew up in South Dakota, where a patient writing teacher fostered in her a love for stories told well. She's worked for newspapers in the Midwest, on the West Coast and the East Coast, and recently launched a storytelling company called Tales and Ales.