Laurent Ballesta is a naturalist photographer, born in Montpellier in 1974.
Now author of 13 books dedicated to underwater photography, he is the youngest photographer to receive the «Plongeur d’Or» at the International Underwater Image Festival in Antibes, and the only one to have obtained it three times. He has published portfolios in major magazines of the French and International press: three unreleased topics in National Geographic and an appointment turned annual in Paris-Match. He also publishes regularly inStern, GQ, Le Figaro Magazine, VSD, Science, Ça m’intéresse, Daily Mail, View, Corriere Magazine, Terres Sauvages, Sciences & Vie, etc.
In 2000, with Pierre Descamp, he founded the association L’Œil d’Andromède, whose aim was to reconcile the study of oceanology and the artistic valorisation of the marine environment, which in 2008 led to the creation of a society, Andromède Océanologie.
In 1999, he became marine science advisor for the prime time TV show Ushuaia Nature alongside explorer and presenter Nicolas Hulot. For 12 years, he took advantage of these trips to exceptional places to bring with him some rolls of film.
In 2006, the Senate of the French Republic paid tribute to his work with a public photographic exhibition entitled «Planète Mers» from the eponymous book. He is the youngest photographer to have been exposed on the grids of the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris. Twenty exhibitions around the world will follow.
In 2007, he took the deepest photograph ever taken by a diver in -190 m of water, off Nice. With this deep-diving know-how, he made in May 2009 a confidential expedition to South Africa to realize an old dream: diving with Gombessa (the local name of the coelacanth) and return the very first photograph of the living fossil taken by a diver to a depth of 120 m. Five years later, this mission will lead to the first GOMBESSA expedition to perform the first scientific protocols on a live coelacanth specimen, at -120 m.
Laurent Ballesta also initiated the production of numerous documentary films for French and international television and directed 4 expeditions GOMBESSA. Each new project is in line with previous projects and further strengthens the3 pillars of his expeditions: a scientific mystery, a diving challenge and the promise of new animal images.
Following these missions, Laurent published in January 2014 Gombessa, rencontre avec le coelacanthe, the only photographic collection on this mythical fish. He presents his best images, those of the coelacanth and his environment, and writes the story of this adventure that lasted 3 years.
Then, in 2016, following the Gombessa III expedition to Adelie Land, he co-signed with Vincent Munier Adélie Terre & Mer two books that bring together the views of photographers, Munier on the ice and Ballesta under the surface, revealing the marine fauna and lush deep gardens of Antarctica, never before plunged or illustrated.
In 2017, on his return from Gombessa IV to Fakarava South, on the edge of Tumakohua Pass (and Gombessa II in 2014), Laurent offered to see for the first time the reproductive ballet of camouflage groupers and the whirlwind hunts of the 700 sharks that inhabit this narrow opening. 700 sharks in the night is his latest work to date, the result of 4 years of expeditions, 3000 hours of cumulative night dives and 85000 photo triggers.
700 sharks in the night
There are 700 of them say the scientists… but for Laurent Ballesta they are everywhere. Sharks clog the narrow beam horizon of its lamps, bump into its cameras, and force a passage between its fins. Dans cette horde où chacun s’acharne à survivre règne l’énergie des affamés. When a prey is hunted, a pack forms and chaos takes shape. Crazy choreography gets organized and ends in a shower of scales. To say they’re ruthless would make you smile. They are the predators of the ages.