Jean Marie Ghislain’s story is an inspirational tale of what happens when we face our fears. Throughout his life, the Belgian artist was afraid of the water, and of sharks in particular. Then in 2009, in his mid-fifties, he decided to confront his phobias, and he learned to dive. This courage lead him to great success, and he soon became known as “the most famous shark whisperer in the world.” Ghislain’s remarkable photographs were published in numerous books and he soon caught the attention of the international media. This new career also brought him a renewed sense of purpose and inner peace. He realised that behind his biggest fear lay hidden his greatest passion. Ghislain describes his journey in his autobiography Schönheit besiegt Angst (which translates to “Beauty Conquers Fear”), telling us that it’s never too late to open yourself up and find your true calling. It is not just his powerful personal story that makes Ghislain’s photography so fascinating. His images also stand out through their unique, unmistakable aesthetic. The artist portrays various shark species in gentle, atmospheric, black and white images, and in doing so sets a new standard in underwater photography. He shows us these predators as we have never seem them before. We are given a new, tender perspective on these supposed monsters, these subjects of our collective fears. Influenced by legend and films such as Stephen Spielberg’s Jaws, we often think of sharks as bloodthirsty beasts that pose a threat to human lives.
And yet no form of life is inherently evil. Jean Marie Ghislain shows us charming, graceful creatures worth protecting, and whose habitats are frequently threatened. They glide effortlessly through the briny depths. Detail-rich shots capture their elaborate physiognomy. Ghislain never works with flash. This lets him to get up close to the predators without startling them and enables extraordinary images. His love for nature and his respect for sharks is captured in minimalist yet evocative photographs that seem to radiate a transcendent calm.
Ghislain is interested in more than just beautiful pictures, however. He seeks to raise awareness of the many threats that our activity poses to sharks, and to fight against human misconceptions. Through his work, he seeks to safeguard these species and conserve their ocean habitats.
Jean Marie Ghislain was born in Belgium in 1955. In 2009 he decided to face his greatest fear and began to dive with sharks. His powerful portraits of these animals have been published in countless books, leading to international recognition as “the shark whisperer”. Through his work, Ghislain campaigns to protect sharks and conserve their habitats. The German version of his autobiography, published in 2014 by Elisabeth Sandmann Verlag, describes his inspirational story.