Loris von Siebenthal

A perfect storm

Loris von Siebenthal
July 2024

One foot on the shores of Lake Geneva and one on the Breton coast. As both a sailor and a photographer forged by the spray of the Atlantic Ocean, Loris von Siebenthal has become a master of immortalizing sailors and their world.

“I must have been 10 years old when I got my first camera”, explains Loris. “As a teen, I discovered I could develop black and white photos in my family’s bathtub, which was quickly ruined by the silver salts. That was when I really caught the bug. Knowing I could capture and interpret something I photographed, and then see it come back to life in the tub thanks to a chemical process, was really fulfilling.”

Loris discovered the ocean’s passionate spirit on family holidays in northern Brittany. The rocks, waves and tides enchanted him. “Photography is a way for me to share the fascination I have for wild environments”, he says. It also became a way for him to share the beautiful world of sailing, which is often unfamiliar to landsmen. He went to sea as soon as he could, moving quickly up the chain from dinghies and windsurfing to offshore journeys and regattas. He was 24 years old when he did his first Tour de France à la voile with the Genevan Centre d’Entraînement à la Régate. He would do the race four more times, both rigging and photographing, and found himself becoming friends with Éric Monnin, the king of European monohull match racing.

The New Era Of Swiss Sailing
An entire era was defined by the emergence of Team Alinghi, run by Ernesto Bertarelli under the colours of the Société Nautique de Genève. Loris met up with the Swiss skipper and photographer Philippe Schiller at the team’s base in Auckland in 2003, the night before the America’s Cup. The race would go down in history for the Swiss team, and Loris had a front row seat to capture the action.

Alinghi’s incredible victory over Team New Zealand (5-0) propelled Swiss sailing to a whole new level. The discipline turned professional, leaving in its wake thousands of newly trained youths, and it turned Lake Geneva into a playground for some of the world’s best sailors. Loris set his sights on a new local adventure, without realizing how important it would be for his career: he became the official event photographer for the Bol d’Or Mirabaud, the world’s largest inland lake regatta. The stars had aligned. The year prior, Loris and his team had finished second in the race during a memorable year that was marked by an epic storm that “took out the whole fleet”. Moving forwards, the race organizers decided to replace Formula 40 boats with Decision 35s, one-design catamarans that feature oversized sails.

Loris went on to become an official photographer for World Match Racing and in parallel began developing his career as an advertising photographer, with multiple large clients knocking on his door. But when all is said and done, he’s best known for shooting in the field, where the environment is complex and ever changing. “I loved the idea of taking a small team and setting up a photo studio in the high mountains”, gushes Loris, an idea that won him the 2016 “Cube” for the Best of Advertising in the Photo Category for a campaign with BCGE. He then won the 2019 Mirabaud Yacht Racing Best Sports Sailing Photo of the Year award — the Nobel Prize for sailing photography — for his image of a catamaran battling winds of 60 knots under a menacing sky during the epic 2019 Bol d’Or, which was also decimated by a violent storm. His photos capturing that event also saw him clinch the 2020 Swiss Press Photo Sports Award.

 The power of the elements transcends Loris von Siebenthal’s photography. “Over the years, I’ve built up a large collection of images capturing light and locations that bear witness to nature’s power. I suppose it’s my way of sharing my enthusiasm for the environment, which I’ve hopefully added my own poetic touch to”, says Loris, reflecting on his career, both past and present. “A return to my roots”, he adds with a smile.