New York City, NY, 20th March 2022, ZEXPRWIRE, Seventy feet below the ocean’s surface, a small group of scuba divers swims through schools of angelfish, pausing now and then to marvel at a green turtle or a sleek ray. As the divers make their way to the sandy bottom, where colorful coral awaits them, one spots a rusty barrel. The diver swims over to the barrel and is delighted to find a purple octopus lounging lazily on it. The diver, internationally acclaimed photographer Urban Koi, brings out her camera and takes photos as the otherworldly creature undulates, swimming majestically and demonstrating its complete ease in this part of the world. Koi is transfixed and will later share her story that it was like meeting a creature from another planet. “Moments of magic like this motivate me to keep exploring and studying Earth,” she says. “There are infinite mysteries waiting to be discovered.”
Koi has been seeking new experiences all of her life. In addition to being a certified scuba diver, she is an aircraft pilot and says that exploring the sky has been just as exhilarating as the ocean. “Flying in the sky is hypnotizing and evokes incredibly deep emotions,” she says. “It is breathtaking and surreal—floating in the span of time between Earth and space. It truly humbles you to see just how small we are in the universe.”
Everywhere she goes, whether it’s the air, the ocean, or a different country, Koi brings her camera, ready to capture the essence of everything she sees. “I see life as a long journey of continual interdisciplinary learning where various fields constantly intermingle,” she states, “and that philosophy is the heart of everything I do. As a creative director, I direct and create visual stories that interlace the realms of health, travel, and space through a unique artistic lens.”
She is guided by the mysteries of the universe and seeks to illuminate the hidden magic and capture intricate details that celebrate the extraordinary diversity on Earth and beyond. Koi says, “I have been mesmerized by photography ever since I was four years old when I dissected a vintage film camera. I was so curious that I opened it up to unmask its anatomy. To a child, it was like a puzzle to decode.”
Koi is completely self-taught. As she grew older, she learned more about the intricacies of light, including how it traveled through lenses, reflected off mirrors, and exposed the light-sensitive emulsion in photography. “The more I experimented with the camera, the more I became captivated by the infinite art I could create. I became a photographer to forever immortalize the beauty of our fascinating world.”
“Iceland has left a profound impact upon my soul,” Koi says. “Overlooking the valleys and filling my lungs with the crisp air, I was swept away into the ethereal landscape—from the meteoric geysers and raging waterfalls to the tranquil lagoons and winding labyrinthine rivers. I stood at the pinnacle of a breathing volcano, engulfed by the layers of terrain that once existed beneath ocean waters, propelled by the temperamental volcanic activity amassed over millions of years. The lands have engaged in an eternal battle yet remain in glorious harmony, existing in pure equilibrium,” Koi reminisces. “I am entranced by the beautiful and complex history bound within the Earth.”
The age of Tumblr and Instagram brought opportunities for Koi to share her photography on a wider scale, and she eventually cultivated an international audience of 250K+ that was drawn to her signature style of visual storytelling and to her blend of science and creativity. “Being able to connect with other people who appreciate the wonders of our world led to dream opportunities,” she explains. “World-renowned brands contacted me to direct and photograph special creative campaigns with my unique lens.”
Koi’s skills were noticed by NASA, who selected her as an independent photographer to document and bring awareness to the space exploration missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.
“It was an incredible honor—a dream come true,” she says. “I was granted clearance to go behind the scenes at NASA’s rocket factory to photograph the engineering process of the Space Launch System, Orion Spacecraft, Pegasus, and Vertical Assembly Center. I have always had a passion for space, so to be at NASA and document the assembly of such brilliant space technology right before my eyes in real time was an experience of a lifetime.”
Her curiosity extends to education, as Koi is pursuing her Master of Science in Space Systems Engineering and Doctor of Aerospace Medicine. “I am on a journey to become an astronaut and see where it takes me,” she confirms. “I am driven to learn more about what lies beyond our planet. My journey is long and arduous. However, I have great determination to be a leader in the healthcare and space industries.”
Today, Koi remains a Student of the Universe®, and on Instagram, thousands follow her journey as she goes around every corner, photographing what she finds. “Wherever life takes me, I am perpetually wide-eyed and curious as a student of the universe,” she says. “You don’t have to dive to the bottom of the ocean or travel into space to find magic. Magic is all around us. Let your heart beat to the rhythm of the universe. With every blessing, lesson, or experience, absorb every drop through your senses. See with new eyes. Adventure and discoveries await you, right where you are.”
Urban Koi is an internationally acclaimed creative director and photographer whose photos of the curiosities of the oceans, our world, and the universe have captivated thousands on Instagram. As a co-leader on the Board of Creatives for 100cameras, she works to empower youth across the world who have had challenging experiences and to teach them to become change-makers through photography. Koi is the creative director and designer of “A Worldwide Lens: Perspectives from Youth,” the first-ever worldwide photobook from 100cameras, uplifting programs in 28 communities around the globe.
For more of Koi’s photography and journey as a future astronaut, please visit:
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