Why this photographer wishes his viral underwater photo didn't exist.

Photographer Justin Hofman was snorkeling along the beautiful coast of Indonesia when the tide swept a mountain of garbage his way.

Photo by Justin Hofman used with permission.

"It was really quite gross," he says. He had been snapping underwater photos of the brilliant coral and different kinds of interesting fish when his field of view was suddenly swamped with trash and sewage.


He continued swimming away from the trash, his camera at the ready, when something tiny caught his eye. Below the wave of garbage, a tiny orange seahorse floated by, its tail wrapped serenely around a pink cotton swab. The juxtaposition struck him, and he quickly snapped a picture.

"This image was a perfect combination of our experiences in Indonesia," he explains. "Amazing wildlife, but terrible pollution."

Photo by Justin Hofman/Wildlife Photographer of the Year used with permission

The photo struck a nerve with everyone who saw it. Hofman submitted the image to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition held by the Natural History Museum in London, where it's currently a finalist.

He also posted it to his own Instagram account, where it quickly went viral, attracting over 16,000 Likes and endless waves of supportive comments.

"It’s a photo that I wish didn’t exist but now that it does I want everyone to see it," he wrote in the caption. "What sort of future are we creating? How can your actions shape our planet?"

Ocean pollution is a problem that extends far beyond the shores of Indonesia. It's, well, everywhere.

Here's a disgusting thought: Over a billion pounds of garbage enters the ocean from around the world each year. There are masses of plastic and garbage — called "plastic patches" — clumped together floating through the seas, some that are even bigger than some countries.

This isn't a new problem, but it is one that can seem far away, distant and out of sight amidst the endless ocean. Hofman's photo is a reminder that it's anything but. After all, who hasn't used a Q-tip recently? How many of us have thought about where that Q-tip would end up?

There are a lot of smart people coming up with clever ways of cleaning up our oceans, but we can all help by being more responsible with our trash and never, ever littering.

This seahorse "surfing" on a cotton swab might make a fascinating photo, but as Hofman wrote, it'd be a heck of a lot better if it didn't exist at all.

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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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