All achievers

David Doubilet

Pioneer of Underwater Photography

Light is everything in the ocean. If you take down a strobe, you uncork that bottle of sunlight, push the trigger of the camera, the reef explodes with light. You see colors that have never really been seen before. They have an extraordinary palette, colors you can’t even imagine.

David Doubilet was born and raised in New York City.  His father was a physician who became a professor of surgery at New York University. At age eight, David, an asthmatic child who at first had little interest in the outdoors, discovered the joy of underwater exploration while attending summer camp on a freshwater lake in the Adirondack Mountains.

November 1978: David Doubilet photographs Eugenie Clark, “The Shark Lady,” as she dives the depths of the Red Sea. Clark is known for both her research on shark behavior and her study of fish and was a pioneer in the field of scuba diving for research purposes. David Doubilet graduated from Boston University in 1970. The following year, he shot his first story — on the garden eels of the Red Sea — for National Geographic. David Doubilet has been a contract photographer for the magazine since 1976. (Photo by David Doubilet/National Geographic/Getty Images)

Growing up in New York City, he had fewer opportunities to explore his passion during the year, but his family spent summers at their seaside home in Elberon, New Jersey, where he took up snorkeling.  At age 12, he began taking pictures above and below the water, wrapping his camera in a plastic anesthesiologist’s bag given him by his physician father.

1992: Pacific: An Undersea Journey by David Doubilet. Doubilet takes us on an expedition off the coasts of California and British Columbia before turning outward to the Hawaiian Islands and the Galapagos. He continues westward across the Pacific, passing by the tiny island groups of Palau and Kerema to Japan, where he explores the sheer submarine cliffs of Suruga Bay at Izu Peninsula. In Papua New Guinea and the waters of the Southwest Pacific — the most diverse coral paradise in the world — Doubilet captures the remnants of World War II battles, underwater wrecks now softened by coral growth and inhabited by schools of glassy sweepers. Moving southward, he touches on the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia and lonely Lord Howe Island in the Tasman Sea. The journey ends in the rich temperate waters of New Zealand. Doubilet’s mastery of the art of underwater photography is evident in his stunning color images of the world beneath the sea. In anecdotal essays about each region, Doubilet describes his adventures while diving, giving voice to the otherworldly beauty of his imagery. (© David Doubilet)

His father encouraged him in other ways, taking him along on a fishing trip to Andros Island in the Bahamas, where David learned to dive with scuba gear.  In his teens, David began working at the island’s Small Hope Lodge and would return every summer through his college years as a diving instructor, taking undersea pictures in his spare time.  Back on the mainland, he worked part-time as a diver and photographer for the Sandy Hook Marine Laboratory.

A half-and-half image of a native fisherman with his young son in an outrigger from a village on the Willaumez Peninsula on the coast of New Britain, Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea. Kimbe Bay, shaped like the cup of a chalice, “is a world,” says photographer David Doubilet, “more alien than the edges of space.” (Photo by David Doubilet)

He entertained thoughts of becoming a marine biologist, but when he entered Boston University, in Autumn 1965, he soon gravitated toward film and broadcasting studies.  Over the summer following freshman year, he attended a pilot course in underwater photography at the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, California.  Bored with his first efforts at motion photography, by the time he graduated in 1970, David Doubilet was firmly set on a career as a still photographer.

1994: The Red Sea by David Doubilet and Andrea Ghisotti. This volume is an invitation to follow famous underwater photographers along spectacular routes over the floor of the Red Sea, a veiled world in the limpid depths, among boundless submerged gardens, fanta