Seeing as water imagery juxta poses ideas such as freedom and captivity, and truth and fantasy, I cannot help but wonder which of the Moulin Rouge! (2011) Bohemian ideals you identify with most? Truth, Beauty, Freedom or Love?
This is exactly why shooting in water is so interesting to me! In many ways the four ideals are really twisted into one, as fantasy photography often is, and perhaps more so with the ideas that I haven’t executed yet. In reality I have not explored most of these concepts to the extent that I would like to and I am just touching on it. While simple aesthetics is something that still drives a lot of my work, my goal is to have a more pronounced conceptual meaning in the fine art pieces I create. Water is inherently associated with concepts like freedom and fear, life and death, growth and decay because it is such a strong and powerful force and for much of what I am planning simply staying on the positive and purely aesthetic side of it will be limiting and not do the medium adequate justice.
Getting down to business, please take us through a typical underwater shoot? Who do you work with and what are their responsibilities?
We are a small team, but much of what we need is in the studio and lighting we use. For fine art or personal shoots I need even less so normally it is only two assistants and I. Their responsibilities is typically concerned with setting up and putting together the lighting rigs that we may need and then one of them will join me in the water for underwater lighting and model assistance and the other will assist from the side. For bigger productions or complex private fine art sessions we will also make use of a make up artist, stylist and a support diver if the water is deep. During these private sessions, the client plays a big role in deciding the look that they want and I occasionally make outfits for them based on these ideas, but will otherwise work with a fashion designer. For my own shoots, I often keep things very simple but I love working with art directors and other stylists, and by doing so, I’ll have the opportunity to create something bigger. Collaborations form a big part of my work.
What is you favourite underwater equipment (past and present) and why?
I love shooting with my fisheye lens, it allows me to create the feeling of a lot of space when shooting in small areas. With it comes a lot of corrective editing, but it has become such a common part of my workflow that I am now very used to it. Lately however, my greatest “tool” has been our custom underwater studio. With different lighting options and glass panels on the one side I have been able to play more creatively and while I am still in the water for 90% of my shoots, I love doing close up portraits while shooting wide open at f/1.4-f/2.8, something that I can rarely do when in the water because the amount of movement between myself and the model makes correct focus very hard.
What are some of the strangest props you’ve used during an underwater shoot?
I don’t use props very often, but the strangest thing I’ve ever drowned was a fully styled table decorated with flower vases and ornaments! It took two divers to direct the table underwater and tie it down with 50kg of weights. After shooting with the table and two models for approx. 15min, one of the ropes slipped off the side of the table. The table started floating upwards at an angle, spilling all the contents onto the bottom of a 3m pool. Everything was glued down but with the table being a heavy wooden door, nothing was going to stay put!