Fairpicture in New York

Case Study: Swiss Re Foundation

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Brief

Swiss Re Foundation is one of Fairpictures' first clients. After many successful commissions in recent years, they are now collaborating with us for a multimedia impact story from the Northern Hemisphere – something that Fairpicture is now also able to offer thanks to its constantly growing network.

Anna Watts, our New York-based visual creator, was brought together with Swiss Re's charity partner, the Billion Oyster Project. Together with Swiss Re volunteers, they spent two days on site creating high quality photos and video interviews to understand how oyster restocking in New York Harbour actually works.

Client

Swiss Re Foundation

Visual Creator

Anna Watts

Theme

Reef ecosystems

Location

New York City (USA)

Date

March 2024

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Volunteers from the Swiss Re Foundation walk towards the docks with Helene Hetrick, Communications Director of Billion Oyster Project, where the organization is rehabilitating oysters on Governor's Island looking out across Manhattan and Brooklyn, New York.

Photo: Anna Watts / Swiss Re Foundation / Fairpicture

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A view of Manhattan from the Billion Oyster Project headquarters on Governor's Island where the organization works collecting and curing oyster shells and rehabilitating oysters to return them to the New York harbor.

Photo: Anna Watts / Swiss Re Foundation / Fairpicture

Context

Four hundred years ago, oyster reefs in New York Harbor formed the living bedrock of one of the planet’s most dynamic and productive ecosystems. With a single adult oyster able to filter up to 189 litres of water per day, the reefs not only kept the water clean but provided a habitat for a myriad of plants, aquatic animals and birds. By the early 1900s, pollution, dredging and worldwide demand for oysters – a culinary delicacy – had wiped out the reefs and with them nearly all life in the harbour. While environmental legislation and better wastewater treatment have improved water quality in recent years, naturally occurring oysters have not returned.

Inspired by work with students at a local marine and maritime-focused public high school, Billion Oyster Project is an ambitious effort to restore eastern oysters to New York Harbour through education and community mobilisation. “Rewilding” oyster reefs promises to reduce water pollution, attract other native species back to this once thriving estuary and, in the long run, help protect the city from storm damage and rising sea levels.

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Portrait of Helene Hetrick, 34, the Communications Director at Billion Oyster Project in an educational building used by the organization where they operate from on Governor's Island off of Manhattan.

Photo: Anna Watts / Swiss Re Foundation / Fairpicture

Billion Oyster Project | Duration: 04:20min.
Video: Anna Watts / Swiss Re Foundation / Fairpicture

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Swiss Re Foundation volunteers work together to pull a cage of oysters onto a dock from the New York harbor off Governor's Island to help with Billion Oyster Project's work rehabilitating oyster reefs in the New York harbor.

Photo: Anna Watts / Swiss Re Foundation / Fairpicture

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A pile of oyster and clam shells recycled by the Billion Oyster Project sits in an area of Governor's Island where the Billion Oyster Project works. The shells are collected from local restaurants and then left in piles to cure of pathogens and other bacteria for a year before volunteers will clean them in order to reuse them for oyster larvae in the organization's rehabilitation of oyster reef in the New York harbor.


Photo: Anna Watts / Swiss Re Foundation / Fairpicture

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Screenshot of the web-special on Swiss Re Foundation's website "Restoring New York Harbor one oyster at a time – Can a vanished coastal ecosystem in one of the world’s most densely developed cities be brought back to life?"

Source: https://www.swissrefoundation.org/what-we-do/achievements/Impact-Stories/Billion-Oyster-project.html

Outcome

In March 2024, visual creator Anna Watts met the inspiring people behind the Billion Oyster Project, who have set themselves the goal of reintroducing a billion oysters to New York Harbour by 2035. In her images and videos, Anna explores the organisation's visionary approach of rewilding an endangered species in a dense metropolis with broad community support.

Anna's collected visual material has now found its way onto the Swiss Re Foundation website. It is also planned to use it on their social media channels as well as in the recently released annual report, where many other impact stories created by and withFairpicture can also be found.

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A group portrait Helene Hetrick, Communications Director of Billion Oyster Project (34) (in blue hat) with volunteers from the Swiss Re Foundation (left to right) Danielle Shah (34), Jeannette Seifert-Wittmer (58), Pranvera Abbatiello (34), William Porter (45), and Amanda Slavicek (41) after they volunteered with the organization to rehabilitate and prepare oysters to return to the New York harbor on Governor's Island.

Photo: Anna Watts / Swiss Re Foundation / Fairpicture

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