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5 Underwater Colour Photographers and Their Otherworldly Works

A Parallel Planets piece by Joy Celine Asto


Parallel Planets presents December Daze 
Five Underwater Colour Photographers 
and Their Otherworldly Works 
Story by Joy Celine Asto

Mentioned: underwater Wonderland, ghostly beauties, and sea goddesses

* * *

The sea is strange and beautiful, eerie and eye-catching, terrifying and calming. Much of our planet is enveloped by oceans and seas, and there’s so much that we are yet to learn about it. Still, this depth and mystery continues to draw not only scientific thinkers but also many creative minds. For some, it’s not just about the abysmal ocean or the deep blue sea; the mere idea of being under water is enough to make the imagination of artists, photographers, and writers run wild.

For the month of December here on Parallel Planets, the spotlight falls on this fascination with the sea and submerged fantasy worlds. With this in mind, join us as we look at some of the most impressive underwater photography in color (hover over the images to see the color versions) to wow and inspire you.

Photo by Elena Kalis

Photo by Elena Kalis

Photo by Elena Kalis

ELENA KALIS

From otherworldly stories to whimsical fairy tales, the underwater snaps taken by Bahamas-based Elena Kalis are certainly among the most eye-catching conceptual portrait work the photography world has seen to date. While she works in both swimming pools and beach locations, Elena prefers setting her visual tales against the natural backdrops of the oceans and seas, even if she finds it ten times more difficult. “The ocean has a beautiful natural stage, fish, corals, and often provides spectacular light,” she mentions in an interview with Digital Photo UK.

Initially trained in the traditional arts, Elena picked up a camera and learned photography several years ago as a new way of expressing herself. Living in a small tropical island has enabled her to take advantage of the location’s inherent beauty, finding that the Bahamas is “hard to beat for the clear blue waters and the shallow coral reefs.”

Elena works with a handful of brave and graceful models, but her daughter remains her favorite subject. “I’m proud of my daughter Sacha; she’s my muse and my little mermaid.” Indeed, we see that Elena has created various make-believe worlds and story book scenarios where Sacha transformed into a number of interesting characters:  a graceful sea nymph, a young girl busy at play, and even an adventurous Alice in an underwater Wonderland.

Photo by Neil Craver

Photo by Neil Craver

Photo by Neil Craver


NEIL CRAVER

For his photography project entitled Omni-Phantasmic, North Carolina-born Neil Craver sets his nude models against the various hues, textures, and backdrops of his chosen underwater locations. Neil says that the project is “meant to be consumed by your emotions, and not simply perceived with your sense organs.” He also intended for these mysterious underwater images to have a “transcendental meaning” brought about by his focus on philosophical theories and “subliminal composition.”

Some shot in color and others in sepia tones, the characters of Neil’s intriguing visual narratives are not simply submerged and caught mid-movement underwater; many of them are also surrounded and seemingly engulfed by twigs, branches, and even bubbles. On this imagery, he elaborates:

“The visual aesthetics are purely symbolic in their thought application and structure; with decomposing forests of broken memory connections, and tumbling of vertigo into the correct positions of phenomenal reality. The shallowness of the area above the horizon line indicates the division of the limited amount of information consciously perceivable (atmosphere-above) and the larger mass storage of all the sense information, rationalizations, and prejudices of the subconscious below (hydrosphere-below). The nexus of contingents between drowning and floating, falling and flying, dying and living are some of the main unphysical-intangible themes in this series.”


Photo by Erin Mulvehill

Photo by Erin Mulvehill

Photo by Erin Mulvehill


ERIN MULVEHILL

At first glance, the photographs taken by Brooklyn-based Erin Mulvehill don’t seem to be taken underwater; there are no tell-tale signs of ripples, bubbles, and distortions seen in most underwater snaps. There is, however, the appearance of her subjects floating calmly about that is distinct in this photographic genre. Through Erin’s distinct style, her models are transformed into ghostly beauties seemingly trapped in an eerie, cloudy, and murky world. Largely devoid of eye-catching colors and punchy contrast, her moody underwater photographs instead focus on the instilling the feelings of despair and helplessness to the viewer.

On her work in general, Erin says:

“My work aims to explore the human connections and subtle nuances that whisper into the ear of our every day. Much of my work is rooted in the ideas of mind, body, seamlessness and time. This is largely because my deepest beliefs lie in the principles of Bbuddhism, the integration of art and life, and the preservation of beautiful moments.”


Photo by Noriko Yabu

Photo by Noriko Yabu

Photo by Noriko Yabu

NORIKO YABU

Unlike the works previously mentioned, Japanese photographer Noriko Yabu utilizes a different yet nonetheless visually arresting approach to underwater photography with her series of self-portraits entitled Suisou. Instead of presenting various sceneries and narratives from beneath the waves, Noriko shows us distorted likenesses of herself from above the water. Subtle undulations, spasmodic bubbles, and rugged ripples twist and obscure her form from this view, and somehow impart a disturbing feeling of drowning to the viewer.

Interestingly, spoon & tamago notes that Noriko’s Suisou can be initially translated into “aquarium,” but a closer inspection reveals that one of the characters was replaced with another that is typically used to refer to funerals and burials. CreativeReview mentions that this combination of characters then comes to mean "water burial."


Photo by Robin Macmillan

Photo by Robin Macmillan

Photo by Robin Macmillan


ROBIN MACMILLAN

The delicate and mythology-inspired underwater snaps of Canadian photographer Robin Macmillan certainly fit the bill of surreal worlds whose mystery is heightened by ripples, bubbles, and misty waters. The centerpieces of her series called Waterworld are of course her beautiful models -- dressed up as either water nymphs, sea goddesses, or Raphaelite muses. This penchant for mythological beings and classical figures most likely stems from her background in fine arts, with her painting skills aiding her to achieve the right tones, textures, and muted hues to bring her mythology-inspired concepts to life.

The photos above are a testament to the various moods, textures, and emotions evoked by color in underwater photography, but we're sure you're curious -- what happens when the colors are taken out? How does the absence of moody hues or vibrant colors affect or enhance the imagery of being submerged under all sorts of bodies of water? This is what we're going to show and find out in another feature, so stay tuned!


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