Looking at life from a different perspective can force you to see things in amazing new ways. This detail suddenly becomes your focal point, and the image is forever changed. The idea behind this project was to do just that. Remove the thing that you always look for or remove that which is often most celebrated in an underwater photograph, the color, and give yourself that chance to gain a new hidden perspective. We also wanted to make the images more relatable, to you the reader. By taking out the color of the water, we could be trapped in an abstract moment of time on land, sitting, lifting, or falling.
In a world of defining inequality what better equalizer is there than the ocean? Our most important natural resource. The complexity of racial discrimination, gender equality, religious divide, and cultural barriers does not exist in the water. The differences we are obsessed with on land disappear underwater, definitions are thrown into contrast, is much more ‘Black and White’. The dangerous, the weird, the exotic, and the ugly are all celebrated without comparison and hate. In fact, they are all dependent on each other, they all make up a delicate but evolutionary masterpiece that forms the foundation of life.
The ocean is a playground for some and for others an unknown space of awe and danger. In an attempt to showcase this world I got together with two friends Ken Kiefer and Andre Musgrove to explore this unique environment. We wanted to take away the noise and distraction of color, we wanted to simply hold our breath and dive in.
In an opportunity to freedive with a friend who was willing to entertain the ideas I had bottled up in my imagination, we got to use both manmade structures and the natural bathymetry of the ocean floor to capture moments in time. Freediving allows the ability to move around underwater in a way you can’t while carrying scuba gear, however with this loss comes other limitations, and working with another person means you have to be able to not only complement each other but be able to carefully match the timing and athletic ability.
In today’s fast-paced, consumer culture, a moment in time captured by a photographer, will either instantly arrest your attention or become another disregarded visual. So how does an image grab you, how does it make you stop your constant scrolling of content, as you drink your morning coffee and find out what the world has been doing three or four time zones ahead of you? Your mind has to be shocked, your senses have to question what they are seeing but at the same time, it also has to make enough sense to engage. Andre, Ken, and I wanted to make the images we took relatable to you the viewer, but at the same time, allow for this moment to question what was going on. The ocean does not judge beauty and difference, it does not impose stigma on color, it embraces all while challenging and inspiring the viewer to suspend their own expectations. The question is though, are you able and willing to do so?
How often do we hear the phrase, ‘nothing is Black or White!’, but why don’t we stop and entertain this idea for just a moment. Two friends, a Bahamian guy and an English girl who has not only grown up in different parts of the world but have been embraced in different cultures, religions, and societal norms their whole lives. We are individuals, we have our own ideas and beliefs. But then we meet, we share a passion for the ocean. We are intrigued by the curious lives of those trapped in a watery world. This world becomes ours, we dive into it – we leave the problems of the surface behind, we leave this thin layer of skin, which society deems our defining difference, we are the same. So we celebrated this, we allowed you the viewer to take the images into your own imagination for you to judge subtleties, texture, this ‘grey’ area for yourself. To see what you find, perhaps you do see Black and White, perhaps your perspective changed.
Andre and I work in a world that has millions of shades, it is the most vital and incredible environment on our Blue Planet, and yet with all this color, Ken captured a world that simply does work it can also be extraordinary in Black and White.
Long gone are the days when only the privileged few had the ability, the opportunity, or even the daring characteristics to be a photographer. In today’s world, every smartphone carries with it the capability, when utilized correctly, to supply its owner with breathtaking panoramic’s, portraits, and time-lapse imagery. Social media platforms have hashtag libraries full of the most extraordinary images. It seems, in some cases, the higher the risk taken to capture a moment, the more attention you get. I get questioned about this very topic, especially when we complement our images with sharks. It is important to note here that due to the many complex safety issues, the safety of the animals and divers is the number one priority. Working with professionals who give the respect to the ocean that it demands actually allows for the space needed to focus on creating and exploring ideas. There is no confusion in the ocean. Everything has a purpose, everything has a place, and there is a very definitive line, and you know when you are getting close to crossing it.
Working with clothes, underwater adds to the task load. However, we wanted to give you something extra to think about. Does the texture, and shading of the contrasting clothes draw you into a mindset of action and adventure or does it take you off to an abstract fantasy? Do the sharp lines of the animals make the images multidimensional or does it trick your mind into thinking they are flying in the air? Time can seem to slow down underwater, to sit still and watch in silence this remarkable ecosystem work around you is a great feeling. There is no ego here, everything works just as Mother Nature intended. Andre and I got to explore these together through Ken’s camera lens.
Our planet is ever-changing, and more recently, the increased onset of global warming has accelerated these changes. The human race is proving to be a mighty advisory for the ecosystems that provide it with life. Not only is our destructive momentum increasing but so does our hatred towards one another. We are actually suffocating the very heartbeat that allows us to exist.
I feel fortunate to be able to sit with my friend in 40 feet of water and watch animals swim by. I love that we can challenge each other in a world that allows us a brief visit before it forces us out again and again. I love that a well-taken photograph has so many layers to it. It makes the viewer really pause and study what is going on, and I love that friendship goes deeper than a thin layer of skin. How lucky are we that we are different, that we can celebrate the ‘grey’ areas that make us who we are? The complexity of our ecosystem is far from Black and White, but maybe going back to basics will teach us that we are the same, we are all equal.