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Serge Melesan: Celebrating the Beauty of the Deep Blue

by Yvette Depaepe
Published the 9th of August 2021

Serge Melesan is a skilled underwater photographer and experienced diver.  He has explored the most beautiful lagoons in the world.  His goal is to share the beauty of the seabed and the variety of species.  To him, the ocean is his garden in which he loves to evolve among a mixture of colours and lights.
But Serge also is very concerned about the endangered ocean environment as well as the species threatened by human behaviour. 

Let's take a journey with him into his fascinating underwater world unknown to many of us.


'Colors of the deep'

Dear Serge,  thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions.
To start, can you briefly tell us about yourself, your hobbies and other jobs.
As there are so many great photographers on 1x, it is a real honour to me to be interviewed. 
I'm grateful for the invitation, believe me.
I am a French economist and high school teacher.
I'm living in the Department of Mayotte, located in the Indian Ocean off the coast of South-east Africa, between North-western Madagascar and North-eastern Mozambique.
And of course, my hobbies are all around the ocean, from swimming to sailing and diving.



How has your history and life experiences affected your photography?
At the beginning, photography was just a way to get souvenirs from the places I discovered during my stay in the South Pacific.
Then it became a way to perceive the dangers and adverse impact of humans on our planet. 
My vision on photography changed drastically when I saw a fisherman sailing back with about 25 sharks on his boat while that place was protecting them.
So I started to dive to understand why sharks are protected on some places and to learn local people why we need to protect them.
A time ago, I submitted pictures from Bega Lagoon Fiji, a place known for the incredible opportunities to shoot the more than 50 sharks living there (bull sharks and tiger sharks) to National Geographic without any expectations.  But surprisingly, I received a message from editor David Lee.   That was a huge boost for my motivation and my commitment to get more photos and to get better and better in underwater photography.
The last step definitely came when I joined 1X and saw all those incredible photographic works.
I also understood that I had to improve my skills to sell my pictures, because underwater photography is such an expensive art.  Every occasion to get money is a good catch ;-)



Which are your most important experiences that has influenced your art?
My visits to the college's library when I was young.  I was reading the National Geograhic issues. 
To me it was a way to travel, all those pictures were so amazing.  I always kept on dreaming to travel and to discover so many of those incredible places.

Those images were burned in my mind.  One more than another of course, and especially this one from Douilet photographing a diver up to a school of barracudas at Raja Ampat.

Then, I met David Hannan who is a great camera man at Wallis Island in South Pacific.
I was his guide during his shooting session for the Tara Expedition. He made a lot of great documentaries for the BBC, the Australian Television.  I watched how he was working and we talked a lot about to progress.  He gave me precious advice to improve my work.


'Into the school'

I also made a ten days trip at Tiger Shark Bahamas with a professional French photographer,  Laurent Ouillet. From him, I learnt a lot of about picture edition, composition and needed materials. 

And last but not least, a lot of people I met on my way, were helping me to increase the quality of my work.


'Face to face'

What first attracted you to photography?
To me, photography always was a way to play with light and colours, shapes and patterns. But the most important is the emotion and the message that I can transmit to the people looking at my images.


'Scholl of Sardines'

 Most of my images reflect very short moments, lasting just 3 seconds!!!

Describe your overall photographic vision.
Preservation, information, and showing the beauty of this natural world that we are destroying so fast.  I want  people to accept that things are changing in their lives.  I don’t judge anyone for their acts,  I was like them for a long time, but with little changes we all can help to preserve our natural world. 
For instance, when I was shooting this red balloon at the surface of a lagoon, it may have been from a birthday or so… But the plastic still is there in nature !!!


'Planet or plastic'

Why are you so drawn by and Underwater Photography?
That’s a good question…. And to be honest, I don’t know.
I never took pictures before I started scuba diving.
But since my first dive,  I got a camera and I cannot imagine any more diving without a camera.  In the beginning it was to prove to myself that I really was there. I also want to show the underwater world to those who cannot go there.  I also consider it as a testimony of how the world was in 2021.
What I know for sure is that I love being there swimming with dolphins, turtles and sharks, discovering  a world I couldn’t have imagined on the surface.
The underwater world is my garden. I can stay there till the battery of my camera runs on empty.  Underwater photography brings me a more global vision on our planet, going from mountain and landscape to clouds and storms, to trees and mangroves, to birds and islands…. to human and nature.
Everything is connected and I take my camera everywhere to proof it.


'Looking for sharks'



'Whale ballet of sea of Cortez'





What is more important to you, the mood,/story behind your images or the technical perfection?

I’m not at all looking for perfection.  
To me, a good picture has a good balance between mood, story and emotion.
I think I am more interested by photojournalism than by Fineart.
My camera helps to express myself, to say and shout to the world what I don't dare to say.


'Tiger beach'

What generally is your relationship to your subject matter beyond being an observer?
Sometimes I’m just an observer  but generally I already have in my mind the image I want to capture. For instance, the sharks of Bega Lagoon:  I just waited patiently for the picture. But before going to shoot, I watch lot of pictures on YouTube about the place where I want to go, to discover the conditions, the visibility, the movement of the animals and I start imaging the scene I want to catch.  I also like to work on specific subjects that I love to share them with others.

My main goal is to show why coral is important, why sharks are important etc…


'Bullshark Dance'



'The great one'

Do you prepare carefully the locations where you are intending to photograph?
As said earlier, yes …
But I also like the random bringing me incredible encounters

What gear do you use (camera, lenses, bag)?
I always work on Lumix Panasonic I work with GH5 and S1
Lenses Zuiko Pro Olympus for my GH5 7-14, 12-24 and 60macro
My S1 is with 24-105 Leica Pro
Bag is a Lowe Pro 350

What software do you use to process your images?
I only use Lightroom for editing.  When you participate to Wildlife and photojournalism contests, you need to be realistic to reach the final round.

What is your most important advice to a beginner in Wildlife and Underwater Photography and how do you get started?
First of all, you will need a lot of patience, you will have to know a lot about your subject and take the time you need.  Don't run from one place to another.

Go several times to the same place.  Get out when others are not yet there.  Early morning, sunset and at night are the moments wildlife moves.

Play with lines, patterns and light. The closer you are, the better but don’t forget the environment. Watch work from other photographers and try not to copy them.

Bring your own emotion, point of view and voice in your pictures.

Don’t be frustrated not being able to travel because wildlife is around the corner.
I remember that during the first lock-down, I took pictures of birds from my balcony.

Respect nature, and never give up, even if sometimes you have bad days.

Who are your favourite photographers and more importantly, how has your appreciation of their work affected how you approach your own photography?

David Doubilet
because he was one of the first playing with argentic when we can play numeric and erase what’s wrong.   I admire him endlessly to the messages in his pictures, warning and alarming us for more than 30 years now about the situation of the Oceans.
He also shows that you can make fineart of photojournalism.

Paul Nicklen

Marsel Van Oosten

Jasper Doest

Ami Vitale

Is there any specific photo taken by another photographer that has inspired you a lot and why?  
Yes, that incredible moment that David Doubilet captured a school of Barracudas.
The circle, the light where the diver is in the frame, everything still fascinates me and still is magical in spite that  I saw it a long time ago.
My photographic journey starts there … This guy made me dream of places, of animals.  I truly think he was and is  my best teacher in biology, geography and art.


'3 ways'



'Soulou beach'

Are there any specific directions that you would like to take your photography in the future or any specific goals that you wish to achieve?
I would like to work on a book to show all connection to nature before starting a new project in Africa or Papouasie New Guinea.


'Shades of colors'

Describe your favourite photograph taken by you and why it is special to you?
I don’t really have a favourite picture.  In fact it is the one to come.
I am very involved about how to get the shot I want, but once I got it, I'm already thinking about the next one.  I focus on my future shots. But sometimes I like to watch my earlier work to see my progress.


'Into the light'





Great article, marvellous work!