My name is George Probst, and I’ve been photographing great white sharks off the coast of Mexico’s Isla de Guadalupe since 2006. Sharks captivated and horrified me as a youngster from an early age. I had always wanted to witness a great white in the wild, but it had always been a “bucket list” item for me. I did not expect to return to Guadalupe in 2006, equipped only with a little point-and-shoot camera, or to witness another huge white. However, following my first trip, I was hooked and have been doing it ever since.
On my first diving excursion, I saw that the sharks did not act how I had seen them represented in movies and television shows (including some documentaries). While we were diving in protective cages, the sharks did not appear to be aggressively interested in the divers. They weren’t aggressively “out to get” anyone and spent the majority of their time swimming about peacefully. They also lacked the solid black eyes that Quint from ‘Jaws’ had lead me to assume.
In fact, if you go close enough and the light is bright enough, you can see that they have a blue iris, which lets you know where they are gazing. They frequently stare you in the eyes, which is an unusual sensation.
The more I shot these creatures, the more I observed how many photos of them focused on them eating and appearing particularly menacing (which they certainly have the ability to be). I’ve taken a number of these open-jaw images over the years, and while they’re popular among the general public, I don’t think they’re especially accurate of how I’ve seen sharks behave in my interactions with them.
In reality, the majority of these photos feature dive boats employing bait to entice sharks to open wide.
While great white sharks aren’t out to harm people and aren’t always attempting to eat everything in sight, they are still enormous, predatory, wild creatures with the potential to be lethal. As with any wild animal, extreme caution and a fair amount of respect should be utilized when in their presence.
Over the last few years, I’ve set out to photograph great whites in a way that encompasses the entire range of their regular activities, not simply feeding. I’ve also attempted to capture some of the “personalities” of the particular sharks with whom I’ve grown acquainted over the years. Researchers have named the majority of the sharks we see on the island as part of an ongoing identification study.