Underwater Photography – An Unusual Career in the Sea
by Michell Spoden
Photography is fun and many seek a career in it. But photography under the surface of water is more of an adventure and even a challenge. I talked to a team of adventurers who are into underwater photography.
David & Melanie: We are Melanie, 32, and David, 39 – the team from Art & Water, founded in 2008, and are representing professional underwater photography. Aesthetic, mystical and magical. Images of quirky creatures, mysterious mermaids and sirens, colourful reefscapes and fairytale life from the wide depths of the seven seas. Art & Water? We often get asked what´s behind this name. What is behind this label? Just one click to our website brings clarification. We are presenting extraordinary and distinctive photographs of mermaids and sirens. As underwater photographer and dive model, we are now hunting together on subjects for photographs in the depths of the oceans, investigating, and writing for over 2 years now.
As an involved team of authors and photographers, we are travelling for our delighted readers all around the world and are reporting from heavenly diving destinations, superb resorts and the wonderful underwater world on-site. Thereby we are always risking a look behind the scenes, apart from the ordinary tourism and the regular inquiries. “Not only scratching the surface” is our device. In doing our works we got most of the world´s oceans very well known and felt into love. We portraited whale sharks in the Pacific, dived with leopard sharks and ghost pipefishes at the wrecks of the Andaman Sea, photographed dolphins and stingrays at the Caribbean and Red Sea. At the beginning of 2008 and with the foundation of Art & Water the idea of model photography underwater was born. For us a liaison of feminine and maritime beauty. Because of the sensuality of our models, the interaction of daylight and location our photographs should generate a natural, contrasty and simultaneously a captivating atmosphere. It is for both of us the highest way of photography to show a body underwater in an aesthetic and beautiful illustration. Thereby it is about sensuality, a little bit erotism, magic and expressivity. Sex sells? Certainly. But not for Art & Water. We are renouncing ourselves consciously from cheapest nude photographs in boring swimming-pools. Not the degree of nudity makes an image lovely but rather the story which is told by the photographs. Savage and vulgar underwater images of adorable mermaids are not belonging to our repertoire. Currently we are belonging to the best and most successful underwater model photographers in Germany and beyond the borders.
Michell: How did you and your partner get started in underwater photography?
David: Already as a small child, water, especially seas and the oceans and everything what is living inside there, fascinated me. I started with diving in 1997 during my first trip to Curacao. The underwater world was so beautiful so I had the wish to show it to all the people outside who maybe have never been below the surface. I wanted to bring the people closer to this foreign and weird world underwater with my images. In this time the possibilities to take photographs under water were limited and so they were taken by a disposable camera. Everybody begins in a small way. My carrier as underwater photographer began this way…
Melanie: I discovered my love to the ocean during my first holiday together with David in 2010. Snorkeling or even diving? – I never did this before. So I got started doing my first snorkel dive on Mallorca, Spain. Very soon I got more interested in the mystical underwater world and beautiful coral gardens and started diving. During my first official dive on Curaçao a big swarm of small fishes was surrounding me and immediately I began posing so my partner David was able to make some impressive photographs of myself and the fish swarm. I had so much fun with this and from this moment on I was the underwater model.
Michell: How does a person become an underwater photographer?
David: In photography, the underwater photographer is something special. Being a good photographer does not automatically mean also being able to use his knowledge under water. You have to be a very good diver, you have to own a very good eye and you also have to mess about with the flora and fauna from the beginning. As underwater photographer you have the possibility to connect your love for photography and also for diving.
Michell: Have you ever been hurt underwater while doing your job?
David: No, we never got hurt yet. You should have respect but no fear while diving. Hands off from poisonous animals and plants is what we pray every time. Photographing yes – touching no. Of course the current pushed us the one or other time against a rock, but everything not so bad. Also diving with sharks in an aquarium is harmless, injuries excluded for nearly 100%, as long as you follow the rules as you are only a visitor in this element. However two years ago almost an accident happened. During a shooting with a kite-surfer in the open ocean he came that close to my lens that I had to dive down for a short moment for not getting his board on my head. This hit would have been devastating for me. Saved by the bell two times: no hurts and sensational images.
Michell: Please share some tips about things an amateur can do to begin this sort of career.
David: Becoming a good photographer from amateur its first priority to grapple with its equipment, knowing it for about 100%. Under water every grasp has to sit for in every second. Have you just found your chosen motif there are often just some seconds left to take a good photograph. The most important is, and we are always preaching this on our workshops again and again, to take up some time. The time is the be-all and end-all for the design and the realization of a perfect photograph. Without taking yourself some time only medium images will be developed. Also if the subject matter is very dry you should read the corresponding literature and visit some photographing workshops. Beside having some knowledge in photographing you should also be a good and safe diver. No image is that valuable to bring yourself or others into danger or to damage the underwater world. During our journeys around the globe we saw enough “underwater photographers” who don´t care about preservation of flora and fauna as long as they get their “perfect” image shot. With this attitude you won´t get friends.
Michell: Please tell us the most unusual thing you have come across while under the waters?
David: For me the most quirky and unforgettable experience was a “friendship” with a trumpetfish in the Caribbean. During my dives on Curaçao a trusting trompetfish followed me for a week like a dog his master. Hardly submerged he swam onto my side, obviously searching for my proximity and did not leave me before I went out of the water. This scenario recurred itself for one week, day for day.
Melanie: We went for a dive on 30 metres on Southern Leyte (Philippines) to photograph the smallest of the smallest adorable creatures: barely 8mm pygmy seahorses. The heaven above went dark as 2 whale sharks (nearly 12 metres long turned their circles through our heads. Until we finished our dive and went onto the water surface three more of these giants crossed our way. In this particular case it means: right time, right place. With the false objective unfortunately. Lots of divers need a whole life to see just one whale shark from a distance, we had 5 of them during our dive, within one´s reach. This encounter I will never forget. Never.
Michell: When did underwater photography begin?
David: My first photographic footsteps I did in 1997 on the beautiful isle Curaçao. Just some images done with a disposable camera. The digital photography was not as famous and propagated as today. Just in 2006 I grabbed a digital compact camera and also the possibility to bring some first impressions from a stunning underwater world up to the surface. With ongoing years the equipment got more and more professional. 2010 my girlfriend and partner Melanie got into this business as underwater diving model and helps from every point of view. Meanwhile our today´s website www.art-and-water.de is representing all our works as underwater photographer team with a big success.
Michell: Do you believe there ever were mermaids? Or is that just a myth?
David & Melanie (with a chuckle): Well, we try with our images to show the existence of mermaids again and again. However, nobody would like to believe us. Seriously. No, Mermaids are and will remain a myth in our eyes. Although a legendary and mysterious myth. Would be a mermaid seen somewhere on this earth, believe us, we would be the first to photograph her. Although the myth and the history are showing mermaids and sirens as malicious and demonic beings we believe that these fabulous creatures are angelic and something beautiful.
Michell: I noticed you have some sponsors and partners on your web site, please explain to us how that works into your work?
David: Because of the cooperation with our partners and sponsors it is possible for us to go back to optimal equipment during our journeys. Over time famous sponsors like Olympus, Subgear, BS-Kinetcis and Seatec decided themselves for having a cooperation with us. For the provided and newest equipment the firms and sponsors are getting footage which can be used for their own marketing. Quasi a win-win situation. It is similar with the cooperation with resorts and dive centers. We are producing the images and therefore we are invited to the most beautiful places and dive spots on earth. Just in January we have been with a film crew in the Caribbean, beginning of May we are going to have an unforgettable cooperation on Papua-Neuguinea for five weeks. We are excited already, which secrets and impressions this country will hold for us.
Michell: Please tell our viewers if you have any future goals for your business.
David & Melanie: We hope to continue having the possibility to travel around the world and doing our photoworks as underwater photographer team. There is lot in our life what we haven´t seen and photographed yet and still a lot to discover. Finally it is our biggest wish to impress the humans and viewers of our images from mermaids and impressions from another world. We also want to galvanize them that it is profitable to fight for saving our oceans, the origin of our existence.
Michell: Thank you so much for doing this interview with us and please keep us updated on all that you are doing.
About the Author
Michell Spoden is the author of Stricken Yet Crowned and is also pursuing a transitional housing project for woman with an agricultural aspect. She has a degree in Business Science Administration and is finishing her bachelor’s in Project Management.