Dive underwater with marine conservationist and award-winning photographer, Jean Tresfon as he shares his art and passion for protecting ocean life.

The coastlines of Cape Town are home to some of the world’s most spectacular ocean life. As a marine conservation and wildlife photographer specialising in underwater and aerial images, Jean Tresfon experiences this first hand. The Insider SA joins Jean on an adventure into the deep to find out more about the wonders below the surface.

Jean has always had a passion for life under the sea, even admitting to bunking boarding school and catching the train to Simonstown to dive. “I’ve been diving for 30 years now. It’s always been a huge part of my life,” shares Jean. Today, his awards include being named a Getaway Gallery Photographer of the Year, and being commended for several images in a Fujifilm Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.

Jean explains how his journey into underwater photography began, saying, “Initially, I would come up from a dive and my friends and family would ask ‘What did you see down there?’. It’s so hard to describe the undersea world to someone who hasn’t been there for themselves so I decided I had to get into underwater photography to show people.”

“There really are two sides to the conservation photography coin,” explains Jean. “On the one side you want to show people the problems: the horrors of animals caught up in fishing lines and injured. The other side is showing them the beauty and abundance of nature – what’s left that’s worth protecting. I try do a little bit of both.”

Jean’s goal is to educate and encourage people to make a difference. In his words, “Photography has the ability to either shock and galvanise people into action, or to amaze and inspire them to protect our coasts by showing them the wonder and beauty of what we still have left.” His advice is to start small, like buying reusable products or even helping with beach cleanups.

Passing on knowledge is something that is done at Pisces Divers, one of Cape Town’s leading diving shops and training facilities. It’s here where Jean has chosen to exhibit many of his works in an effort to showcase the beauty of underwater life. Jean explains, “Cape Town is an awesome location for underwater photography, chiefly due to the huge variety of animals we can see and locations we can dive in.”

Jean joins Steve Benjamin and his team at Animal Ocean in Hout Bay to dive and photograph seals in their natural habit. Animal Ocean allows conservation enthusiasts like Jean to snorkel with seals and experience their gracefulness up close and personal. Steve shares, “It’s an incredible experience because everyone can get into the water and interact with the wildlife on their own terms.”

The beauty of the Cape Fur Seal is that they’re endemic to South Africa. They are found as far north as the southern tip of Angola, with colonies occurring all along the Namibian and South African coastlines.

By capturing their beauty in his images, Jean wants to make people aware of our underwater ecosystems. Once captured on film, the underwater world and its majesty can be shared.

Reflecting on the challenges Cape Town faces in terms of conservation – such as illegal fishing, pollution, sewage dumping, and poaching – Jean shares, “I think it’s important for people to realize that what we have is still very much worthy of protection. It’s not too late to start or become very strong in our activism.”

Jean Tresfon uses his passion for photography to share stories about a world so many of us don’t get to experience and reminds us just how beautiful and precious it is so that we may protect it for the future generations to come.