Alex Voyer and Marianne Aventurier –yes, her perfect real name for this matter!– are a French couple that enjoy the water in all its forms. From frozen lakes, passing through swimming pools, until every corner of the ocean, these freedivers explore the liquid medium, in a photographic way, creating their stories inside it. Alex Voyer, passionate about the sea life, started taking photographs underwater with his friend Alex Roubaud, and as they say “pixelating whales, sharks and other creatures who swim far much better than us”. Now, Voyer seeks for them with the company of Marianne, and creating images of their interactions, we can see her as part of this marine wildlife, introducing themselves in this rich environment and, as they say, freediving with friends.
As you say, your job is not related with the sea or the wildlife, and you haven’t lived by the sea, but still have that passion for it to plan trips around the world just to swim with whales, dolphins, penguins, etc, why?
As far as I can remember I am passionated for fishes and sea-life (I was so lucky to lived in Polynesia my first 6 years). I used to go to the sea for holidays from my youngest age. I am living in Paris, so I began to freedive in a club and now it is about 10 years that I am a freediving instructor.
With my budy Alex Roubaud, we decided to make an association called Fisheye a couple of years ago to promote freediving photos, and I am also very lucky to share this passion for the ocean wildlife with my girlfriend Marianne Aventurier, and when we have time and money, we are trying to freedive as much as possible all around the world.
Which is the most challenging thing about photographing animals underwater? Any tip you would give to people who would like to start doing it?
The most challenging animals to shoot are certainly the smallest, that’s why I always try to photography the big ones! No… There is not a big challenge about photographing animals underwater, the difficulty is certainly to try to make some different photos as the ones we use to see. There are plenty of beautiful photos of underwater creatures, whales, sharks, dolphins, and I really don’t think that mine are better than the others! But I think that freediving with those animals gives a different point of view, and we are not so many photographers in this way. With Alex Roubaud, we are really inspired by our friend Fred Buyle who opened a way in making freediving photographies.
If anyone want to begin freediving, it is very simple, just find a freediving school or instructor not far from you, there are all over the world (more than 10 clubs inside Paris), then you will improve very fast and learn everything about security, the only thing to remember: Never Ever Freedive Alone!
What kind of gear –talking about camera and post processing– did you carry with you in these trips and how is your workflow?
Nowadays, I am using a canon 5D Mark II, and most of the time the16-35mm lens, putting it in an underwater housing, using no strobe or light. It seems incredible, but it is a gift from a great photographer called JF Julian who taught me a lot about photos and wine!
Due to the water absorbing a lot of light, I am also making a little and very small post-production with Lightroom, nothing very spectacular.
Which was your greatest story with an animal underwater?
It is very difficult to say, each story is very different, when there is an interaction between an animal and a freediver it is always an incredible moment, it could happen with humpback whales, spermwhales, dolphins, different species of sharks, penguins, seals, or sea lions who look very interested by our presence, but it can also appears with smaller fishes, even octopuses can be really playful, and I’ve already had some incredible moments with them!
On the other hand, we had also some bad experiences in the water… Not with the animals, but generally with men who are invading animal space.
Which is the best way to approach an animal underwater without disturbing them or their environment? And the best way to do this while photographing them?
We are trying to be as respectful as possible with the animals, event if we know that we also disturb them, because of our presence, because of the noise of motor boats, etc. But we are trying to make it as good as we can, studying animals behaviors, and looking for good guides, skippers.
In some places the animals become mass consumption products, people just want to have a selfie with a dolphin or a shark, and it is very sad. Please try to avoid the resting places, daily boats who promise you an incredible encounter each day, animal feeding… There are also a lot of very good diving clubs or guides all around the world knowing well the animals, try to make a little research before and follow your instinct.
With Marianne, we are making sport and training all the year, swimming and freediving in pools, also running, of course it is not the funniest part, but it is very important for us. We want to be as aquatic as possible when we are in the water with the animals, in a rough sea or in difficult condition.
Which is the next animal you are gonna search to photograph and where?
I will stay in France for some months, and there’s any travel planned, so I will make underwater photos, anywhere I will find water (even in Paris), like in this series 'Paris Wild-Simming?'.
I also began a series of photos in pools with water athletes, it makes me improve my photo skills, and I love this sport ambiance too ('Splash!!!' and 'Alan Bernard makes bubbles').
I am searching water subjects anywhere, before planning the next trip to find sea animals. So, let me know if you have any idea!
For the last question, is there something you want to say to the people who read you about marine conservation?
We always hear that humans are destroying and polluting the oceans, which is not false, but in my photos I want to show that there are still a lot of animals and beautiful places to protect instead of making people guilty. For example, last century we have destroyed certainly about 90% of whales, now that we are all ok to protect them, whales are back in lot of places, and I try to be a witness of this to give hope and desire to protect sea life.
Freediver: Marianne Aventurier | Website with Alex Voyer