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Photographer of the Week – Ellen Cuylaerts
By Lia Barrett, March 13, 2014 @ 02:00 AM (EST)

Tiger shark, Tiger Beach, Bahamas

An activist, photographer, teacher, wife, and mother, Ellen Cuylaerts has come up with her own formula for a successful work-life balance.

Ellen’s interest in photography started at a young age, but as she so candidly put it, “other subjects (boys, parties, university, history, and traveling) took over.” And as the Nikon she had purchased with saved up babysitting money gathered dust, she tended to other conventional building blocks of life. 

But if you ask her how she ended up living the island life she does today, you might find, as I did, that her frank and honest nature is quite refreshing. She admits that she earned a masters in history and education to prove to her parents that she could do it. She worked in IT for her brother's company until a “blast from the past swept her off her feet.” She and that so called “blast” (videographer Michael Maes) were married, and later, as they were raising their children in Belgium, she became disenchanted with conventional living and systematic education, and pulled her children out of school, moved the family to Grand Cayman, took charge of their learning, and started scuba diving.

Already possessing an inclination for photography, it wasn’t long before Ellen was attending one of Dr. Alex Mustard’s workshops in 2011.  And from the amount of award winning students that Alex has mentored, it is no wonder that Ellen’s work progressed so quickly.  Pretty soon, she too was/is winning awards, and being published worldwide.

Through the development of her shooting and her diving, Ellen continues to craft a voice for conservation through imagery.  And from what I can tell, by experiencing firsthand knowledge and appreciation for the ocean, Ellen’s children are receiving a hands on education not likely achieved through powerpoint presentations back in Belgium.

Sperm whale calf, Dominica

Ellen's daughter and stingrays at the Sandbar, Grand Cayman

Freediver Mark Tilley enters Devil's Grotto filled with silversides, Grand Cayman

Photo of Ellen with Emma the tiger shark in the Bahamas by husband Michael Maes

Oceanic whitetip shark, Cat Island, Bahamas

Barrel rolling manta, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Spinner dolphins in Kona, Hawaii

Mark Tilley freediving with a spotted eagle ray, Grand Cayman

Secretary blenny, Macabuca, Grand Cayman

Manatee at Crystal River, Florida

A curious sea lion, Sea of Cortez

To see more of Ellen's spectacular work, check out her website, www.ellencuylaerts.com.


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