Tribute: Shark Expert Ron Taylor

by Inga Yandell

Australian marine conservation pioneer and renowned shark expert Ron Taylor has died, aged 78.

Mr Taylor suffered myeloid leukaemia for two years and died peacefully on Sunday (9th September 2012) at a private hospital near his Sydney home.

A Member of the Order of Australia, Mr Taylor first became fascinated with marine life in the 1950s as a spear fisherman, but later decided to “hunt with a camera” instead of a spear.

He was the first photographer to capture images of a great white shark underwater without the protection of a diving cage.

The Taylors are regarded as pioneers in underwater cinematography, and produced some of the very earliest underwater footage of great white sharks.

Revered for their knowledge and experience working with sharks, the duo were called upon by Hollywood to film the live-shark sequences in the iconic film Jaws.

A project Taylor later regreted, crediting it with doing “a lot of damage to sharks.”

“People went out with a vendetta to kill sharks because they believed that sharks were really like that,” he said. “But in fact Jaws was just a fictional film. Valerie and I got a lot of flack because we were involved in a film which stopped a lot of people learning to dive.”

In similar retrospect, Taylor once a spear-fishing champion replaced his spear with a camera – affiliating himself with conservation.

“Now I hunt with my movie camera or video camera and it’s the same sense of achievement to get close to a marine creature and capture some behaviour, or perhaps a shark – a dangerous looking shark.”

Photography sparked Taylor’s life-long interest in the craft (his father also a photographer) and united his passion for the ocean. Together, Ron and Valerie Taylor (married in 1963) formed a unique team producing scores of underwater documentaries – captivating audiences and inspiring efforts to preserve the treasures of the deep.

Recognised for his contribution, Taylor was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia for services to conservation in 2003.

Also known as “the shark man” – Ron Taylor will forever be remembered through his work as a pioneering photographer and conservationist.

Learn more about Ron and Valerie Taylor, their documentaries and conservation projects.

Inner Space (Trailer): 1973 Shark Documentary

Underwater Australia: Photography Project

Talking Heads: Interview 2005

Wikipedia: Profile/Bio

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Inga Yandell
Explorer and photo-journalist, passionate about nature, culture and travel. Combining science and conservation with investigative journalism to provide educational resources and a platform for science exploration.
Inga Yandell

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