Alex Mustard BSc Oceanography with Marine Biology , 1996
If you’d asked me when I first began at Southampton what I would be doing, I never seriously considered an underwater photography career. I was interested in photography but my focus was always on the science.
I wouldn’t be the photographer I am today without my time at Southampton.
I first came to Southampton because the staff were friendly and enthusiastic. It was a big deal for me to go to University and when I visited the staff made an impression on me. They had a genuine interest in me and you tend to remember those things.
While pursuing an oceanography with marine biology degree, my interests focused on marine ecology and the interaction between animals and their environment. As I spent an increasing amount of time photographing marine life, the crossover with the classroom was certainly a benefit. I did well at University because I was interested in my studies and motivated to succeed—it didn’t feel like work.
After graduation I decided to pursue a PhD and chose to stay at Southampton. People who are interested in the oceans know about the National Oceanography Centre Southampton (NOCS) and its reputation definitely influenced my decision to stay.
My photography hobby was never far-behind and throughout my PhD studies, several research cruises and later work as a postdoctorate at NOCS, I began to win awards for my underwater photography. I was getting more photography work than I could handle and with one year left on my contract made the difficult decision to leave. I wasn’t sure that professional underwater photography could work, but it has, and I can’t imagine my life had I not taken this chance.
I credit my photographic style to my passion for the oceans and the time spent at Southampton and my grounding in science. I wouldn’t be the photographer I am today without my time at Southampton. I often record animals with complicated behaviour, which have not been documented scientifically. If I can surprise people with visual stories from the marine environment and enthuse people about the oceans then I feel I have been successful.
I would suggest that students who are considering their careers don’t come to Southampton with too many preconceived ideas. Your opinions will change as you learn more about the oceans and you need to be open to it. If you are fascinated by the subject you are studying, it will always be useful, no matter what you do.