Pioneering photographer, 90, still passionate about reef
May 16, 2018
KEY LARGO — In his seven decades diving the Florida Keys, renowned underwater photographer Jerry Greenberg has seen the coral reef in its glory, and in peril.
Greenberg, a member of the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame, photographically chronicled “Key Largo Reef: America’s First Undersea Park,” the cover story for National Geographic’s January 1962 edition.
In July 1990, a sequel he photographed on many of the same globally known Keys dive spots ominously was titled “The Coral Reefs of Florida Are Imperiled.”
“An American family should be able to go out and see a decent reef,” Greenberg said last week.
Now 90, the Key Largo homeowner continues a campaign to advocate for reef protection and ongoing projects to replant nursery-grown corals.
Greenberg often speaks at programs to support the Key Largo-based Reef Environmental Education Foundation.
“I don’t want to slow down,” he smiled. “I love to work.”
One of the latest projects of the Greenberg family’s publishing company promotes the “Florida Keys Reef Collection,” a wire display rack stocked with Seahawk Press marine species books, and waterproof identification cards for reef fish, game fish, water birds and mangroves.
Jerry and wife Idaz, an artist, created the first submersible fish-ID cards in 1979.
“Our quality is still second to none,” He said. The books have been translated into several languages.
The “Florida Keys Reef Collection” package will be offered to appropriate retail outlets at no cost, providing the retailer restocks directly from Seahawk Press and Fishcards.com.
Greenberg spent much of his youth freediving to spearfish around the jetties of Miami Beach. After a stint in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of Miami.
He learned to scuba dive and was increasingly drawn to underwater photography. He built some of his own underwater housings for cameras and later sold a line of Seahawk housings commercially.
“We used to spearfish on Molasses Reef” before it was protected in 1960, Greenberg said. “The only places to launch from Key Largo were Garden Cove and Gordon’s Mandalay.”
In 1956, Sports Illustrated published the first color cave-diving photographs from inside a deep North Florida spring, taken by Greenberg.
He wrote “Underwater Photography Simplified,” one of the earliest tutorials on the subject, and recounted his adventures in “Manfish with a Camera.”
“I always wanted to work for National Geographic, the great American magazine,” Greenberg said. “In 1962, I finally got the chance” for the feature on John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.
At the time, the nation’s first marine protected area covered 75 square miles. Now the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary comprises 2,900 square miles.
Greenberg had his second National Geographic cover for a feature on sharks and contributed images for several other stories.
Now his passion focuses on “reefscaping,” Greenberg’s term for recreating living reefs out of damaged or diseased areas.
“I want to see rich reefs that are full of happy corals,” he said.
For more information on the Florida Keys Reef Collection, contact Greenberg at 305-588-2430 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.