Christopher P. Leidy, shot at Leidy Images in Palm Beach

Underwater photographer Christopher P. Leidy is making a name for himself, yet he would rather you didn’t know what the “P” stands for, at least not until you have one of his vivid pieces hanging in your home.

“I want my art to be bought and appreciated because it’s awesome, because you actually feel like you’re swimming through it and simply have to own it,” says Leidy, who showed his work at the Elle Decor Showhouse during Art Basel Miami Beach 2011. “I don’t want it to be on your wall because of my name.”

If you must know, the “P” is for Pulitzer. Leidy is the grandson of designer Lilly Pulitzer, who, since the 1960s, gained fame for her lively, colorful dresses that were favored by no less than Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. She married into the family whose scion, the late, legendary publisher Joseph Pulitzer, founded the Pulitzer Prize.

It’s quite a name to live up to, but that doesn’t seem to bother Leidy much. In fact, the 30-year-old Palm Beach native’s childhood was quite different from what you might expect, and clearly it served as the inspiration for the aquatic, artistic life he leads now.

“I grew up barefoot and naked, running around in the dunes on the beach. I have saltwater running through my veins,” says Leidy with a hearty laugh. “Today [Palm Beach] is all collared shirts tucked into shorts, but it wasn’t anything like that back then.”

Childhood jaunts to the Bahamas on his grandfather’s boat reinforced his love for the ocean, and when his post-college career in film took him to Los Angeles and then New York, Leidy found himself desperately homesick for a regular dose of sun and sea.

“I came back in 2006 dead set on [doing] underwater photography as a profession,” says Leidy. “I went down to the Bahamas for five months and spent all of my time taking photos. When I finally had my first show, I absolutely killed it. I sold 16 out of 21 prints on my first night.”

His ascent shows no sign of slowing, and his aesthetic has evolved to present nature in a clean, minimalist way, sometimes playing with the line between abstract and representational. Last November, he opened his third gallery, Leidy Images in Palm Beach, having closed the other two to focus on the new location, and he will be showing his work at the Condé Nast building in New York this month. As good as that all sounds, however, Leidy’s heart is already set on planning his next underwater adventure, camera in hand—maybe Papua New Guinea, perhaps the Maldives.

“The photos I’m currently showing are from my last trip—three months in French Polynesia, living in a shack, sleeping on palm fronds,” says Leidy. “It doesn’t get any better than that. It’s all about being alone with nature and God.”

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