MBIM Royal British Institute of Marketing (CIM)
AAMI Australian Marketing Institute Associate
AIMM Australian Institute of Management
BA (Econ) Bristol U.K.
Honorary Technical Assistant — Queensland Museum
Honorary Associate — Australian Museum
Senior Fellow International League of Conservation Photographer
Fellow The Explorer Club
SCUBA Instructor Trainer NAUI # 11245L Life member
International Scuba Instructor NAUI,CMAS,SSI
Michael AW is the founder of Asian Geographic (1998), Ocean Geographic (2007), as well as OceanNEnvironment(1998), a charity organization registered with Environment Australia. Before becoming an ocean advocate, explorer and one of our world’s most published underwater photographers, Michael worked in mainstream advertising agencies for 15 years.
In February of 2023, Michael successfully organised a multi-national team of experts of diverse disciplines, and gender, aged 12 to 88 from 20 nations for a benchmark climate expedition to document the state of the Antarctic (ACE2023) and created eight resolutions for a transformative change for a net-zero planet by 2035. The pictures, music documentaries and resolutions from the expedition premiered in June 2023 at the Melting Ice, Sinking Cities exhibition at the CDL Green Gallery, Botanical Garden, Singapore.
Since 1993, MICHAEL has been credited as the PRINCIPAL AUTHOR AND PHOTOGRAPHER OF 39 BOOKS ABOUT THE OCEAN. His accolades include winning more than 68 international photographic awards and being named one of the world’s most influential nature photographers by Outdoor Photographer. Michael AW’s essays and pictures have been published in BBC Wildlife, GEO, National Geographic, The Smithsonian, Nature, Ocean Geographic, Asian Geographic, Nature Focus, The Times, and Discovery to name a few.
He has proudly received four awards from the Natural History Museum Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition; in 2006 and 2015 he was the Winner of the Underwater Category. In 2013, he was awarded the NOGI AWARD for Arts and inducted into the fellowship of the American Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences.
In 2012, Michael’s book Indonesia’s Global Treasures won the Palme d’Or (Gold) International Prize for Best Book of the Year at the World Festival of Underwater Pictures in France (Festival Mondial de l’Image Sous-Marine). Michael is the first to have won this prestigious award twice; the first was for Heart of the Ocean in 2009. This artistic book category presented entries from a host of international authors and photographers including books published by media powerhouses from the UK, Germany, Singapore, USA and France. In 2010, he won the prestigious Gold Diver award for the highly contested Portfolio category at the World Festival of Underwater Pictures in France. It was the first ever for an Asian to win this category.
In 1999, he led a team of 44 for the world’s first 24-hour documentation of a submerged reef, Maaya Thila in the Maldives. The feature-length documentary “24 Hours Beneath the Rainbow Sea” was produced for the National Geographic Channel and a commemorative book of the same title was published in 2000.
From 2010 to 2018 Michael was the project director for the Elysium Epic expedition to the Antarctic and Arctic with 57 and 66 team members respectively. The expedition team comprises some of the world’s most influential image-makers and scientists, to document the biodiversity and climate change report card of the polar regions. In 2018, he organised a multi-disciplinary project leading a team of 49, using three vessels for an expedition across the heart of the Coral Triangle for a first-ever baseline survey of the biomass of corals, fishes and the first microplastic assessment in the region.
In 2008, Stan Waterman conferred Michael with the Peter Benchley Shark Conservation Award from the Shark Research Institute in recognition of his highly-effective and unrelenting campaign against shark fin soup consumption in the Asia-Pacific region. Michael was also a recipient of the prestigious Wyland ICON Award for Conservation in 2011. In 2012 he received the Diver of the Year Award at the Beneath the Sea Festival in New Jersey.
In 2018, Michael was honoured with the Outstanding Achievement Award from the Chicago, Our Worlds’ Underwater Show.
In 2020, for the second time, Michael AW was a judge for the Natural History Museum Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition and as well judge for the Australian Geographic Wildlife Photographic competition.
Beneath Bunaken (1993) was his first book and Our Ocean, Our Future, Palau, is his 38th.
*Michael AW has led four flag expeditions for the Explorer Club
Explorer Club Flag 108 – 10 Feb to 2 March 2010: the Shackleton Antarctic Visual Expedition
Explorer Club Flag 101 – 28 Aug to 13 Sep 2015: the Elysium Artists for the Arctic Expedition
Explorer Club Flag 61 – 2 July to 10 Aug 201: the USCGC Chukchi Borderlands Expedition
Explorer Club Flag 61 – 13 to 23 Feb 2023: the Antarctic Climate Expedition
By Michael Hohensee, Editor, GEO Australasia
Every couple of months or so Michael zips into our office just long enough to commandeer the nearest light table enthusiastically spreading sleeves of 35mm transparencies over it as he quickly offers an outline of his latest underwater adventure. Then, almost before you can persuade him to sign the contract for his previous contribution to the magazine, he is out of the door again…off on another project.
Michael isn’t one to let sea grass grow under his fins and I also know that invariably his photographs will be something special as this book, Dreams from a Rainbow Sea, attests. His dream was to capture on the wonderful and colourful world of marine life. He does that expertly, with an eye on conserving it.
By Marcello Toja, MONDO Sommerso, Italy
There is something rather mysterious in Michael AW’s mode of photography. I don’t think that it is due to the type of camera he uses neither do I think that his works are bright as a result of his camera lenses, because, although he of course uses professional equipment, the same is done by thousands of photographers all over the world. So, what is the reason for the difference, what is it that has brought this lad, a little Australian, and a little Chinese, to the top of the rank in this field worldwide?
I have often said when talking of photography, that every artist expresses himself: the painter paints his interior world, the poet describes his joy or sadness, while a photographer immortalizes himself. If you meet Michael Aw, you will notice that the first impression is one of brightness. His eyes, mirror of the soul, are bright, his face is bright, and his mode of behaviour likewise. Talking to him, one realizes that what was previously complex becomes simple, and problems either do not exist or can be solved.