Out of Office: A Day in the Life of Coral Gardeners Photographer Ryan Borne

Join the Ocean Revolution

Out of Office spotlights pioneers who have decided to pursue their passions beyond the typical 9-to-5 job.

As a French-Caribbean born photographer and filmmaker, Ryan Borne is following his passion by working with the Coral Gardeners in Tahiti. This project was conceived on the island of Mo’orea in 2017 with a small group of local kids who decided to take action against the rapid degradation of the coral reefs. Today, their plight has morphed into an international collective with experts, scientists and advocates hell-bent on saving the reefs through ocean conservation.

Borne shared with us how he landed in French Polynesia and why you should never doubt yourself or give up on your dreams.

Above: Taiano Teiho on assignment for Coral Gardeners


How long have you lived in French Polynesia and what drew you to the islands?

I’ve been in French Polynesia for two years. I grew up in the French Caribbean islands so I’ve always been familiar to the ocean and tropical environment – it’s a part of me. I enjoy discovering new places and different environments but I always come back to the islands.

How did you land this dream job in Tahiti?

In September 2017 I moved back to the French Caribbean Islands when Hurricane Irma hit my island home. I stopped my studies after graduating from high school – college was not for me and I wanted to help my family recover from the Hurricane. Everything around me was destroyed but I saw this time as being a big reset mentally and physically.

I took the first job I found at a company to remove trash and do handling work. I was only getting into photography as a hobby at that time.

After a couple of months, I realized that that I could keep doing that job that I didn’t like forever. I remember telling myself ‘Ok. If you really want to escape your job and be a photographer don’t half-ass it, you have to commit and go all in’, so I took all the money I had in my savings and bought my dream camera: a Canon 1DX Mk ll that I still use today.

In February 2019, I still have a full-time job, driving a trash truck which was not the best job but it taught me so much about work ethic and allowed me to save and buy more photo/video gear. I was doing freelance photography during my free time and plan on going part time soon.

I remember being blown away when seeing Coral Gardeners’ photos on Instagram and always thinking ‘Damn, it would be so cool to get to work with these people they’re doing things differently’. Couple of weeks later Coral Gardeners posted a volunteer opening for a Photographer/Filmmaker in their stories, I was so excited, I thought this was my chance but I didn’t apply. I was too scared and let my fears take control.

Taiano Teiho assignment for Coral Gardeners

I was very sad and angry at myself for missing out on that opportunity, but I remember thinking that if that was really what I wanted then, it would happen in some ways. I just had to keep working and trust the process. I made a promise to myself that if another opportunity would arise, I would jump at it immediately.

In May 2019, I was sitting in my truck eating lunch, exhausted and scrolling through Instagram when suddenly, it appeared again! The exact same volunteer opening. I immediately replied and started to chat with the Coral Gardeners. I manage to get on a call two days later and meet Titouan Bernicot, the Founder, for the first time. It felt like we knew each other for years and at the end of the call he was like “OK bro there’s a bed for you in our headquarters, it’s on!” I was beyond stoked! The next day, I quit my job and bought tickets to Mo’orea even though I had literally zero experience with underwater photography.

Two weeks later I was landing on Moorea – embarking on an adventure that would change my life forever.

Lessons learned:

  • Don’t half-ass it.
  • Trust the process.
  • Keep going, you never know what opportunity is around the corner.
  • Aim High.

Heaven is Here by Ryan Borne (available @driftward)

How do you split your time now between photography and conservation?

It’s all intertwined because photography/visual art is the skill I use to contribute and do my part in conservation and nature preservation. So, I do photography/ filmmaking all the time but I’d say 90% Conservation 10% Freelance work.

Tell us what your typical day entails while you are trying to change the world?

I start the day at 8am and most of the time finish at 4:30pm – 5pm but since we are so dedicated, we don’t really count hours we make sure the work is done well.

I work with the Coral Gardeners communication team on creatives campaigns to spread awareness on ocean conservation and more specifically coral reef preservation.

These are the issues I spend the most time wrestling every day with the communication team:

  • How do we revolutionize the way we do ocean conservation and inspire the next generations to care for our oceans?
  • How do we make someone who has never seen a coral or maybe has never even seen the sea care about reefs and the ocean?
  • How do we make conservation cool and attractive?
  • Social media can be a good tool in bringing people together, for instance this is how my story with Coral Gardeners started.

Above: @coraliedepyl in St. Barts by Ryan Borne


We try to replicate the ways big and successful businesses communicate in order to advertise our actions and promote our movement the best way we can. We truly believe in leading by example and that great change happens because people have been inspired to instead of being told to.

If you blame people and throw arrows, they will either fight back or get defensive, feeling like their ego or sense of identity is being threatened, and the last thing they will want is to listen to critics or being told to change their behaviors.

I truly believe that real change has to come from the inside and that’s why I always keep that approach to conservation which is; showing the beauty of the oceans to give people a new perspective by allowing them to see through my eyes for a moment. I personally think that more than ever we need to bring back hope and meaning to people by showing more positive than negative while being also realistic and showing the not so pretty side of things too because it’s the contrast that allows us to realize the beauty of things.

Above: Protector of the Sea by Ryan Borne (available @dritward)


Why is this so important to you and what is the one thing people should know about this plight?

We don’t own nature but we are a part of it. Because we all come from there, nature is the foundation this is our home. I don’t know any other animal or living being who would destroy their own habitat.

We are crew members of this planet and it is our duty to take care and maintain it, otherwise, we will kill ourselves. People should know that the time is now, everyone has a part to do and that caring is cool, dedication is cool.

Educate yourself, apply knowledge, then act and inspire others to do the same. When you really think about it in reality everyone has only one person to change the world, which is themselves.

How does one go about adopting the coral and what has the response been like for visitors?

Anyone can adopt a coral by going on the Coral Gardeners website, it is the simplest and most effective way to support our work. Over the last four years more than 15 000 people from all corners of the world supported through coral adoption, this is what allows us to continue our mission every day, and scale up the movement around the world.

Check @driftward for more of Borne’s photography available for purchase.
And, follow him on @ryan_borne

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