What Lies Beneath

When Chris Leidy swims with sharks and whales and other creatures of the sea his focus is on his breath. As a photographer, he has to be aware of his demeanor underwater, trying not to frighten away species with a stream of bubbles, swimming rhythmically so that his subjects will begin to present themselves.

Chris Leidy (Courtesy of Nick Mele)

Leidy actually prefers to shoot in shallow waters. He says it offers a strong ambient light. “It’s an artistic playground in the shallows,” he enthuses, creating natural reflections from the underside of the ocean’s surface. The deep, however, allows him to find an array of difference species and colors. 

In a series of dives that took place in the Coral Triangle— the waters that cradle much of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste—Leidy took pictures of sharks, coral, turtles, and whales. Sometimes he is featured with them, allowing viewers to share his experiences. 

“Black Lagoon” (Photos courtesy of Chris Leidy/Assouline)

The images also invite us to see the fragility of the Coral Triangle, drawing awareness to the reef’s preservation needs. His collection of photographs, both striking and vivid, were recently published in Chris Leidy The Coral Triangle (Assouline), with some proceeds being donated to the Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center. (Cousteau also wrote the introduction in the book.)

Leidy, who has been diving since he was four, uses a Canon camera—”a Canon 5 DSR,” he specified—in a Nauticam Housing with an assortment of lenses and strobes to take his photographs. He clarified that the hues and saturation allow him “to reach exactly what I need in creating my abstract art.”

Leidy’s “Rad Zap”

Leidy’s dives in the Coral Triangle were magical and filled with adventure, as he explained, “nothing short of swimming in an aquarium.” On one of his dives, however, Leidy had a strange surprise. After shooting some subjects underwater, he got to the surface, looked around, and only saw water. No boat. “I was left adrift,” he exclaims. But even with that setback, Leidy assured that the Coral Triangle has the most beautiful waters on the planet, and hopes that viewers are moved by his art, also stating that “healthy oceans and reefs mean healthy air for us all.”

It’s clear that Leidy’s artistic passions live under the sea. But his next engagement will take place on land, although it will be just as thrilling. Leidy will be getting married in Bali and raising a child. “The adventure of a lifetime awaits me.”