Organised by the Natural History Museum in London, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition uses photography to celebrate the diversity of life forms and help promote environmental protection. After being awarded first prize in the Earth Environments category in 2017 and then the competition's Grand Title in 2021, this year Laurent Ballesta has won the Portfolio category. His submission consisted of a series of his most beautiful images from the Gombessa III expedition, which took place in Antarctica in 2015 with Blancpain’s support. The mission represented a great first in its own right in terms of exploration, diving and photography, during which Laurent Ballesta, accompanied by his team of technical divers, ventured under the ice pack, for the first time immortalising the deep ecosystems of this unexpectedly abundant region. The dives that enabled this photographic feat were extremely difficult, given the freezing temperature of the water, as well as the risk of being trapped in an icy labyrinth.
The winning photos reveal a clandestine, colourful and varied life, of which the inventory compiled during the expedition has greatly contributed to research on underwater ecosystems. Photography thus serves multiple causes, a potential understood by Blancpain almost 20 years ago when it launched its first ocean protection initiative.