In 1947 Andre Laban has seen Jacques-Yves Cousteau's movies for the first time, and they have left an impression on him. Later on Andre has got to know the researcher himself, and from that day his entire life became connected with the underwater world. High professionalism and his personal qualities — inventiveness, bravery, a sense of humour — have made Laban one of the regular members of Cousteau's legendary crew. On the research vessel "Calypso" he took on the duties of the operator and the leading engineer
Andre Laban is a historical figure. In the distant year 1953 he began using an underwater camera for his TV program “En direct du fond des mers” (“Live from the seabed”). In 1965 he took a leading role in the “Precontinent-3” experiment off the the coast of Monaco, which involved aquanauts living and working at a depth of 100 meters for 20 days. During this experiment took place a radiotelephone conversation with the astronaut Scott Carpenter, located in the “Sealab-2” underwater laboratory off the coast of California — a peculiar connection between space and the ocean.
Much was written about Laban’s passion for collecting, his love for underwater painting and music by Cousteau himself and the members of his crew. Andre likes to listen to Vivaldi, Bach, Handel. He plays a cello himself.
His first underwater painting was done by Andre Laban in 1962, laying the foundation for a new movement in art. He loved to paint since childhood, but to work underwater required new knowledge and special skills. His knowledge of chemistry came in handy: Laban used a special primer allowing oil paint to be applied to canvas while underwater. On Andre’s paintings the sea and the underwater world are depicted the same as the aquanaut sees them — a stunning gamut of blue.
It’s astonishing to see how this elderly man, lay at the depth of 15 meters, spends hours working on his pieces. And it’s even more astonishing to hear him sing underwater as he works. “What are you singing while painting?” Andre was asked once. “I don’t know, — he responded. — I don’t even notice it.” And, after a pause, he added: “When I am painting underwater, my entire soul is singing”.
Working for Cousteau’s expeditions as a photographer and film operator, Andre had tested hundreds of types of photographic film and film stock, produced underwater boxes and special lighting devices for various cameras all by himself. The results of his work were presented to the judgement of audiences from all over the world — at festivals and on TV — and for dozens of years they have been enjoying invariable success.
Having published his memoirs titled “La Passion du Bleu” and several publications of his humorous photographs and caricatures, today Andre Laban is working on a novel. A few years ago together with his friends he released several short movies, recorded underwater: “Iris and Oniris”, “Neptunia” and “The Girl and the Sea”. Today Andre Laban is 85, and he is full of energy and new ideas.