Greg Lecoeur

Journey to the centre of the sea

@ Greg Lecoeur

As any oceanographer will readily tell you, in many respects we know more about life on Mars – situated some 76 million kilometres from Earth – than we do about the abysses of our own ‘blue planet’, 72% of whose surface is covered in water. Yet 95% of our planet’s biosphere is located beneath the waves of our seas and oceans. Although American entrepreneur Elon Musk, who dreams of sending people further into space, might not agree, the ocean depths really are the final frontier for human exploration, the last uncharted zone on our maps, the ultimate reservoirs of still unknown biodiversity. Because while we are losing hundreds of species each year at an ever-quicker pace thanks to human impact on the climate, we are also constantly discovering new species of coral, fish, amphibians and more. Scientific extrapolations converge to estimate that 18,000 species are discovered each year, and that 86% of the species living on earth (and 91% of those living underwater) have not yet been recorded.

This mysterious underwater world is what attracts French photographer Greg Lecoeur, who was born in Nice and grew up by the Mediterranean Sea. From a young age, he dreamt of exploring the beauty of our marine environment and advocating the protection of this fragile ecosystem. And this is precisely what he managed to do, after a spending a few years at business school and working in the family company. An enthusiastic diver, he ended up “listening to the little voice inside that told me I should be doing something else,” as he puts it. So he took the plunge and became a professional photographer. In the world of photojournalists and wildlife photographers, specialised underwater photographers are a distinctly separate category. Once these photographers have travelled to the ends of the earth, they then need to be eminently resourceful with well-prepared logistics if they are to work in an environment that is definitively hostile to humans, and take photographs while they are there! This Frenchman had what it takes and was named photographer of the year by National Geographic and the French National Museum of Natural History in 2016. He was also recently awarded first prize in the 2020 Underwater Photography of the Year competition.

Like fellow lensmen Brian Skerry, David Doubilet and Paul Nicklen, he is now a major specialist in underwater photography. Homing in on the silent dance of southern right whales, leopard seals and other creatures that inhabit the unexplored depths of the abyss, this exhibition showcases some of the greatest shots of his prestigious career through photographs that revolutionise the genre by getting up close to the animals.

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