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Meet Oriana Poindexter

Today we’d like to introduce you to Oriana Poindexter.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I’ve been curious about the ocean and her inhabitants my entire life. Today, I’m an artist, scientist, free diver and surfer focused on the ocean and her inhabitants. As a child at the beach, I remember testing each sea anemone to see if they would all try to eat me, and corralling sand crabs in hand-dug holes. They would inevitably escape, burrowing back into the sand I had dug them out of. As a teenage competitive swimmer, I spent hours each day in a sort of suspended aquatic meditation punctuated by coaches yelling. It was during this time that I realized the water could be a place of refuge, of silence, and a place where I felt both weightless and powerful because it was not governed by the same laws of physics that applied on land.

In college at Princeton, far from the water, I found in photography a tool to quietly explore the land for evidence of what humans had done in the context of the natural laws of time and light. Post-graduation and after a couple of false starts, I learned about the specimen collections at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UCSD. These collections are the libraries of the sea – aisles of shelves filled with thousands of jars, each holding a creature, a piece of the ocean and her story. These specimens inspired me to apply to graduate school, where I became interested in the complexities of our seafood system and threw myself into the study of fisheries economics. I find seafood markets and specimen collections to be similar spaces, as they are both places in which humans attempt to turn the ocean inside out to organize, classify, categorize and value her inhabitants. I’ve been working as a contract scientist based at NOAA’s lab in La Jolla since completing graduate school, focused on improving our seafood system.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
In retrospect, everything seems to fall together nicely, but in the present, it’s not smooth sailing. Finding the time, resources, and mental space to continue to produce art while maintaining a full-time job as a scientist is a struggle. Transitioning out of graduate school into working as a contract scientist, and navigating all the funding challenges that come along with that path, has been particularly challenging.

We’d love to hear more about what you do.
I’m a scientist by day but pursue my art just as seriously. I free dive to make underwater photographs using a Nikonos, a 35mm film camera with no light meter. These photographs document the feeling of being below the surface of the ocean — a fleeting experience of belonging that we humans are only allowed to have one breath at a time. The specimen photographs documents moments of the life of the ocean, suspended in glass and catalogued for posterity.

You can find my work online, and stay tuned on my website for opportunities to see it in person.

– Oddities: Hidden Heroes of the Scripps Collections Exhibit at Birch Aquarium, open to the public 9-5pm daily.
-Meric Spearfishing, Oceanside. Open to the public Tues-Sun 10-6pm.
-Grace Peterson Massage & Bodywork, Leucadia, by appointment only.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Oriana Poindexter

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