A Photographer’s Experience Swimming With Polar Bears

The new documentary “Picture of His Life” follows renowned underwater photographer Amos Nachoum on his ultimate quest: to be the first still photographer to capture images while swimming with the polar bear. He joins the show alongside Yonatan Nir, who co-directed the film with Dani Menkin.

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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: And you did have, I think, a near miss with a polar bear earlier in your career. And even in this film, there is a dramatic moment where your first encounter as you go up to make this once-in-a-lifetime still image is with a big aggressive male who basically looks down at you and, all of a sudden, everything goes black. And Yonatan and the others, the editors, have really left two or three seconds, it seems to me a lifetime of black, and we don’t know what’s happening in the film and what happened to you. And then you know you meet up with these other polar bears, who you finally capture. Just tell me what it was like to experience that.

AMOS NACHOUM, WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHER: It was — it’s hard to explain, because to be dedicated behind the camera or behind the microphone, as you are right now, is full dedication. You don’t think — or I did not think about anything else, but about taking the picture and remain alive and survive. I have a desire to survive and desire to bring epic moment. The moment when the polar bear came second time after me was remembering of the first time, so I had the chance to react fast enough to move away from his, actually, hands. But, eventually, as you see in the movie, that we had a chance to photograph mother and two cubs, and peacefully moving over the head Adam Ravetch, my filmmaker, and above my head, and totally in peaceful and in harmony, which — what the movie was all about, to bring people to understand that it’s our responsibility to act peacefully in the environment, and then things are much better off.

AMANPOUR: I love the way you keep using the word peacefully. Yonatan Nir, can I ask you, it must have been a conscious decision to inject some adrenaline in that first encounter with the polar bear. What were what were you thinking when you put those images together and kind of made us wonder, what on earth had happened to Amos in his first encounter in the film?

YONATAN NIR, CO-DIRECTOR, “PICTURE OF HIS LIFE”: Well, I think what we really try to do is to give the viewer the same sense that we had when we were there in the Arctic on the boat waiting to see what will happen. The bear came closer to Amos and dived towards him. And we didn’t know what will happen. And with a couple of seconds of, you know, real fear, me and Dani Menkin, my co-director, we just stood there on the board with the Inuit guides and hoping for good. And we tried to kind of give you the same feeling as we watch the film, and there’s these seconds of uncertainties in black.

About This Episode EXPAND

Kay Bailey Hutchison discusses President Trump’s decision to pull nearly 10,000 troops out of Germany. Chile Eboe-Osuji responds to the president’s sanctions against International Criminal Court officials. Rev. Robert Schenck reflects on the president’s relationship to white evangelical voters. Amos Nachoum and Yonatan Nir discuss the new documentary “Picture of His Life.”