2018 Judges

LAURENT BALLESTA

Laurent Ballesta is a naturalist photographer. He graduated with a Master in Marine Biology and Ecology at age 23 where he completed his studies by discovering a new species of fish to the western Mediterranean, the Andromeda Goby, Didogobius schlieweni.

He is the youngest photographer to be awarded with the “Plongeur d’Or” (Gold Diver) at the “Festival International de l’Image Sous Marine” in Antibes and the only one to have obtained it three times.

He has published portfolios in major magazines of French and foreign press (Science, National Geographic, GQ, Paris-Match, Figaro Magazine, VSD, ÇA m’intéresse, Daily Mail, Stern, View, Corriere Magazine, Terres Sauvages, Sciences & Vie, etc.) and in August 2009, he celebrated his 100th page in Paris Match. Today he has nearly 150, a record for underwater photography for such a broad and popular magazine.

As early as 1999, he was among the early adopters in the use of electronically controlled mixing closed circuit rebreathers. Rebrethers made it possible to dive deeper and more discreet which offered revolutionary perspectives in underwater exploration.

In 2000 he founded L’Oeil d’Andromède with Pierre Descamp, a non-government organization aimed to reconcile oceanology studies with artistic highlight of marine wildlife and environment, which led to the creation of the company Andromède Océanologie in 2008.

In 2006, he was the youngest photographer to have exhibited his work on the famous gates of the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris and in 2008, he took the deepest image in the world ever photographed by a diver at - 625 ft, by the French Riviera.

In May 2009, he led a confidential expedition to South Africa to study and document the Gombessa (the local name of the coelacanth fish) and brought back the very first pictures of the living fossil fish taken by a diver. These unique photographs were published in National Geographic (USA) in March 2011 and he received the Hans Hass Award in February 2013 for his scientific and educational work dedicated to marine biodiversity.

In 2013, he led his first GOMBESSA Expedition where his team conducted the first scientific protocols on a live coelacanth specimen. He later published their findings in January 2014 through the book entitled “Gombessa, Meeting with the Coelacanth”, the only photographic collection about this elusive species.

To date, Laurent has led 3 more GOMBESSA Expeditions where they documented the mating of groupers and the night hunting of grey sharks in French Polynesia and explored the deep ecosystems of Antarctica. Every new mission is in the lineage of the previous ones and strengthens the three pillars of all Gombessa expeditions: a scientific mystery, a diving challenge and the promise of unprecedented animal images.

INDRA SWARI W

For Indra, the ocean holds magnificent power, yet it gives her the sense of calmness which allows her to interact with her subjects in their environment.

Throughout her 15 years of underwater photography, she has tried to capture the beauty of the marine environment in the treasure of colors offered by the creatures that inhabit the blue water. In doing so it is her hope that her pictures share not just the beauty of this world, but through reflecting the natural behavior of these marine creatures raises awareness on how fragile this environment can be.

Her passion for both large and small creatures comes through the pictures she captures, truly bringing them and their world to life for us all to appreciate and enjoy.

ELLEN CUYLAERTS

Award-winning Belgian photographer, Ellen Cuylaerts captures images of ocean wildlife that are serene, peaceful, and strikingly intimate. With a masterful understanding of composition and light, Cuylaerts creates works that are almost otherworldly, ushering her viewers into a realm still so foreign to the human collective. Cuylaerts’s objective with her work is twofold: she seeks to bridge a deeper connection between humanity and nature, and she also works to capture her own experience as the photographer, how it feels in those moments when she is behind the camera.

As she explains, “You can either choose to document an encounter or express how you’ve experienced the encounter. I try to shoot from the heart.” In this way, she essentially draws the viewer into the natural world.

Ellen Cuylaerts travels the world as a freelance underwater and wildlife photographer, documenting animals in each region and the particular challenges they’re facing. She currently lives and works on Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands.

WILLIAM TAN

Renowned Singapore-based underwater photographer, William Tan spent much of his spare time gazing at the extensive marine collection of the National Aquarium in Baltimore when he was studying at the John Hopkins University (USA). He was certified to dive in 1994 and instantly began shooting underwater.

As a violinist with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, he travels between concert seasons throughout the Pacific region photographing marine life for tourism organizations, resorts, and dive magazines such as Scuba Diving, Marine Photo, Mergulho, Asian Diver, Daily Telegraph, TravelCom, EZDive, Scuba Diver Australasia, Chinese National Geographic, and more. In addition, he has already published two books, Gorontalo: Hidden Paradise and Silent Symphony.

John Thet

John Thet, the current President of Media Publisher Association Singapore, is the founder of Underwater360, Historical Diving Society Asia, and Asian Geographic Society.

In the publishing industry since 1993, John Thet is the Publisher and Editorial Director of ASIAN Geographic Magazines Pte Ltd. In 2000, John became one of the company's pioneer members and in November 2005, he was appointed Publisher (CEO). Under his able leadership, the magazine has won close to 60 International awards in both the publishing and creative arena.

The company took over Scuba Diver Australia (which was later renamed as Scuba Diver Australasia) and Asian Diver in 2001 and 2007, respectively. In 2009, He took over as the official organizer of Asia Dive Expo (ADEX), Asia’s largest and longest running dive exhibition.

In 2010, with the combination of two Dive Media (Scuba Diver & Asian Diver) and ADEX, he founded the Underwater360 Group. Today, Underwater 360 is a key player in the dive media and events industry, with more than one million readers and followers worldwide. ADEX also expanded outside Singapore to Beijing, Shenzhen, and now Guangzhou.

To date, Asian Geographic won 62 International awards, including most recently the best Exhibition Organizer awards 2018 from Singapore Tourism Board. John is still actively involved with the editorial and art direction of the magazines, books, and events. He is relentless in his efforts to bring Underwater360 to new heights.