I'd never done anything like this before, and although I'm quite comfortable in and under water, I had no idea if I would be able to look comfortable under water, or manage my facial expression so that I didn't look like I was dying! I've seen some really beautiful underwater photography, where the models all look like they're perfectly at home, sitting around having tea, and not struggling against the instinct to swim up to the surface and breathe. The beautiful Ivory Flame has some wonderful examples of this type of photography which I've always admired, but I had no idea if I would be able to manage it myself.
One of the most difficult challenges of this shoot (apart from fighting instinct) was that the pool we used wasn't very big. Normally, when swimming under water, I would propel myself under while holding my breath. But the pool wasn't really large enough to use force to get beneath the surface, and the only way to submerge without disturbing the surface too much, was to expel air from the lungs first, and then just sink to the bottom. I confess I did find this counter-intuitive, as I naturally wanted to take large gulps of air before going under. I don't really like the sensation of water up my nose either, and with no air left to expel from the lungs, there's really no way to avoid this. After several hours of water up the nose, it becomes a little disorientating, and I hardly knew whether I was upside down or the right way up!
However, all of those challenges aside, I did really enjoy this shoot. I got the hang of going under water without gulping air first, eventually. It was something completely out of the ordinary for me, and the company was very enjoyable (and so was the lunch). Swimming is one of few forms of exercise I actually enjoy, and it's always nice to have the opportunity to have a splash about (particularly without any clothes on!). I loved the idea of creating abstract images from the body under water, and although it's harder to maintain any sort of control over the final results under these conditions, I do love the outcome.
Many of these images remind me of artworks - abstract, otherworldly and ethereal. Some were taken under water using an underwater camera, and others were taken from above the surface with me submerged. The final results contain all sorts of surprising imagery, including Picasso-esque distortion of the features and limbs, crucifix-like symbols, and all sorts of mythical creatures which appear to lurk out of the depths of nowhere. I only look a little bit like I'm dying in some of them, so I think the objective was achieved and we created some fascinating images!
Images by and copyright of David Waldron