Ernest H. Brooks II, son of the founder of the internationally-renowned Brooks Institute of Photography, has achieved international acclaim for his breathtaking underwater photography. Brooks has been a trailblazer in the development of underwater photographic equipment and technique. Although he has harnessed and implemented much of that new technology at a time when color underwater photographs overwhelmingly illustrate magazines and brochures, he favors black and white. His photographic legacy is one that illustrates the changes in our environment, while he himself remains a tremendous voice in our need to witness the effect of such changes. He is a member of the Professional Photographers of America and is one of forty photographers in the world admitted to the prestigious Camera Craftsmen of America.
Ernest H. Brooks II was born to be a photographer. His Portuguese ancestry, rich in men-of-the-sea, virtually insured the ocean environment would play an important role is his life. As the son of Ernest H. Brooks, founder of the international-renowned Brooks Institute of Photography, Mr. Brooks was destined to follow in his father’s footsteps for part of his life’s journey before forging his own path. He graduated from Brooks Institute, served on the school’s executive staff and in 1971 assumed the office of president, a position he held until 2000 when the institute was sold to Career Education Corporation, CEC. Throughout his long tenure as the head of Brooks Institute, he carried out the duties that come with that corporate territory including keynote speaking at international conventions, working with national and international organizations and companies to enhance the industry, and encouraging photographic education and promoting photography as a universal language. Along the way, while fulfilling the responsibilities of his office, his achievements earned him numerous accolades and awards.
As a noted professional photographer, educator and ambassador to the industry, Mr. Brooks has won international acclaim for underwater photography and audio/visual presentation. As a working professional, he has contributed to numerous magazines and organizations including Cousteau Society, California Highways, Ocean Realm, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Nature Conservancy and Natural Wildlife, to name only a few. He is a recipient of numerous honors and awards.
His work has been exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Monterey Bay Aquarium Shark Exhibit, Yugoslavia ‘Man in the Sea,’ Our World Underwater, Smithsonian ‘Planet Earth’ and was also honored by the Smithsonian Institute in January of 1995. He is a member of the Professional Photographers of America and is one of forty photographers in the world admitted to the prestigious Camera Craftsmen of America. As a leader or principal member, Ernest H. Brooks II has participated in projects of international recognition including: the photographic investigation into the Shroud of Turin (1978 Shroud of Turin Research Project); and photo-documentation of Arctic research station activities (1977 sponsored by the McGinnis Foundation of Toronto, Canada). He was also a project leader and member of the international panel in the ‘Focus on New Zealand’ event in 1985 and led a photographic research and travel expedition to the Sea of Cortez aboard the Institute’s research vessel, ‘Just Love,’ in 1986.
Mr. Brooks has been a trailblazer in the development of underwater photographic equipment and technique and has witnessed great industry advances. And though he has harnessed and implemented much of that new technology, at a time when a plethora of color underwater photographs illustrate magazines and glossy brochures, he, perhaps surprisingly, favors black and white. “I don’t think that blue, an inherent color of the ocean, really adds to many photographs, especially of mammals – and I like the quality of black and white. Also, I get the personal satisfaction of working with black and white in being able to control the development and printing.” The ocean and underwater photography are among his main interests. In the pursuit of dramatic marine images, he has descended into the fascinating waters beneath the polar icecaps as well as into the depths of almost every ocean on Earth.
As the president of the prestigious Brooks Institute, Brooks created his art while influencing many of the current batch of the world’s top underwater and nature photographers, including Louis Prezelin, Cathy Church, Chuck Davis, David Doubilet, Mal Wolfe, and Jack and Sue Drafahl. Yet, even as he amassed a library of images, many of which are in museums and galleries worldwide, Brooks realized that the source of his inspiration was being diminished. Pollution, overfishing, coral-reef destruction – all were taking their toll on the very oceans that not only sustain life on Earth but also made it possible in the first place. The Silver Seas exhibit extends the reach of Brooks’ compelling multi-layered environmental message: if a photographer moves out of rhythm, the sea lion streaks away. If mankind over fishes the ocean, the blue slips into black oblivion. Clear-cut the forests and coral altars become bleached limestone tombs.
His photographs provide an entrée to an underwater world that most people will never experience for themselves. They also portray man peacefully coexisting in the undersea realm, enhancing the notion that humans have a role beneath the waves and that, by extension; they are the only possible advocates for the sea.
Ernest H. Brooks II was Inducted into the International Photography Hall of Fame in 2017. He passed away in 2020 at the age of 85.