‘Coral Reefs, a Challenge for Humanity’: opening of an immersive photojournalistic exhibition

Over 200 people attended the opening of the immersive photojournalistic exhibition at UNESCO Headquarters on 5th June.

Attendees included members of UNESCO, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), and special guests including : Aurélie Thomassin (IFRECOR, French Initiative for Coral Reefs), Anne Caillaud (IUCN France),and Pascal Colin (Ministry of French Over Seas).

‘Coral Reefs, a Challenge for Humanity’, is the result of two years’ work by photojournalist Alexis Rosenfeld and journalist Alexie Valois to bring to attention these precious but threatened ecosystems.

Alexis Rosenfeld & Alexie Valois

This photojournalist work combines knowledge, skills and powerful visuals. It was a very exciting project. We visited amazing and healthy coral reefs, alongside reefs which were far less well preserved” Alexis Rosenfeld.

From the reefs of the Maldives to the Red Sea, the Philippines and French Polynesia, this exhibition allows everyone to admire these exceptional but endangered natural wonders, some of which are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

We conducted a series of reports initially intended for magazines, but we wanted to tell more stories, hence the idea of a public exhibition. The images displayed along the border gates of UNESCO’s headquarters are complimented with video content as it was important for us to give a voice to those who live near coral reefs. Members of the public viewing the images are also educated through this content about how important these tropical ecosystems are” added Alexie Valois.

Scientists, including UNESCO’s IOC experts, utilised this artistic and documentary advocacy project by calling for collective awareness and strengthening of international cooperation.

Through these pictures and words, Alexis Rosenfeld and Alexie Valois allow us to highlight scientific work that could have remained unknown to most. Their insight and testimony is in line with the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. On behalf of the Director-General of UNESCO and the IOC Executive Secretary, I thank them warmly for this project”said Julian Barbière, Head of the IOC Section for Marine Policy and Regional Coordination.

The cultural services provided by coral reefs are priceless but these ecosystems are facing many threats. That is why 37 countries of the International Coral Reef Initiative declared 2018 the International Year of Coral Reef” explained Sophie-Dorothée Duron, Deputy Assistant Director of Coastal and Marine Affairs at the French Ministry for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition.

It is estimated that 30% of coral reefs are now dead, with obvious consequences for the well-being of humanity” said Philippe Vallette, Director-General of Nausicaá and co-sponsor of the exhibition. However, there is still hope: “Some coral reefs are still healthy. If high temperatures aren’t sustained following a bleaching event many of the corals will be able to regain their colourful algae and are able to flourish once more” he continued.

The exhibition “Coral Reefs, a Challenge for Humanity” is on display until 30th August 2018 along the gates of UNESCO Headquarters – 7, Place de Fontenoy and Avenue Lowendal, Paris 7e. Additional text, video interviews, reports and 360° photos are available via smartphone by scanning the QR codes on the displays.