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Laurent Ballesta (left) on board a submersible

Ocean Talks 2024: Announcing award-winning photographer Laurent Ballesta as joint keynote speaker

23 April 2024 • Written by Lucy Dunn

BOAT International is thrilled to announce that award-winning photographer Laurent Ballesta will be joining as a joint keynote speaker for Ocean Talks 2024, taking place at The Magazine, the Serpentine North Gallery on 6 June 2024. Ocean Talks is an annual event where the superyacht industry and the world of marine conservation come together via meaningful conversation, inspirational talks and networking.

Read More/Everything you need to know about Ocean Talks 2024

French underwater photographer and marine biologist from Montpellier Ballesta has established himself as one of the most important figures in underwater photography, working for National Geographic magazine and as an explorer for National Geographic Society.

A pioneer in scuba techniques, Ballesta has been diving since the age of 13. He is famous for pushing to extreme depths, less out of a taste for danger and more out of an urge to capture the mysteries of the deep. Each of his expeditions is approached as a technical challenge, helping him to go deeper with each descent – testing the physical limits of the body and the dive to advance further into the twilight zone, to depths of up to 200 metres.

As a result of these missions, Ballesta brings back original images that have not only an aesthetic but scientific value. He is the author of 13 photography books dedicated to underwater wildlife and his work can be seen in everything from the National Geographic to Paris-Match. He is also the author of several award-winning documentary films including the Nat Geo Channel and Discovery Channel.

In 2008, he co-founded Andromède Océanologie, an exploration company which undertakes ecological surveys and ecological restoration and which employs 15 full-time scientists and divers. He has since led several large-scale expeditions, all with three specific aims: to solve a scientific mystery, to conquer a diving challenge and to bring back never-seen-before images. 

From the first photographs of the ancient coelacanth fish taken by a diver at a depth of 120m to the hunting of 700 sharks in French Polynesia at night, Ballesta illustrates the underwater world with both a naturalistic and artistic perspective.

In July 2019, Ballesta and three partners spent 28 days exploring diving sites between 60 and 140 metres deep between Marseilles and Monaco on a mission to discover the biodiversity of this little-known seabed. The team lived in a saturation chamber located on a floating barge, climbing out of the chamber into an adjoining diving bell every time they wanted to reach the deep diving spots. 

This new diving method is the key to exploring so far underestimated ecosystems, allowing the diver to stay several hours at the bottom and avoid the hours of decompression of traditional diving. In 2021 Ballesta spent another 21 days off the coast of Corsica's Cap Corse to unravel the mysteries of its coral rings.

Ballesta has been awarded the Natural History Museum's Wildlife Photographer of the Year title four times. He has also won its highest award, the Grand Title, twice: in 2021 for his picture 'Creation' and in 2023, for 'Golden Horseshoe'. He is the first photographer to have won this accolade twice since the seventies.

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