Moscow photographer about features of shooting under water

I started to take pictures actively in 2009, I even left my work in an airline company. Before that time I had had an experience only with my dad’s Zenit camera. In 2010 «Surrealism», «Oil», «Nest» serieses appeared which won numerous of prizes and were exhibited in different countries. And my «submerging» started.

What made me do that? Vanity. By chance I saw works of Zena Holloway and looking through the whole material about underwater shooting I made a conclusion that nobody did it in Russia. I didn’t take into account bearded biologists in knitted hats shooting underwater flora and fauna of course. Not that topic. Mine, as it’s known, is a building a shot, inventing my own world.

So, I took all necessary equipment, found a very deep pool in Moscow and people who were also interested in it. We practiced a lot. I received a certificate of PADI to shoot in  a special scuba-diving equipment. First it was banal, some sketches  of «The Virgin in the water» for understanding the behavior of the equipment, setting the light, body movements and getting a desired result. Then I got some ideas of adding an internal content in all meanings – physical and moral. I mean, I constructed and installed underwater animals ( fish, jellyfish, turtles, etc.), clouds, scooters and cakes for “Underwater Dreams”. Trees were fastened to people to convey a philosophical idea of the series “Life.Despite”. And there were even alive fish there.

Much of what was shot is still in the archive, because for one reason or another it did not suit me on the quality of performance. Many excellent floating girls left with nothing because they were not able to overcome the fear of diving. But I’m still lucky enough to find “my” models, I am grateful to them for their natural talent for their time and patience – I have very high demands on myself and the people with whom I work on a project .

I can tell you something touching about it. When I work – shoot – I forget about everything: I am cold or hot, I have eaten today or not, I’m covered with mud… and the things like these. I go back to reality when it’s done and if it’s successful. And one of my favorite models Katherina was invited to shoot “Underwater Dreams” with a new girl. And that girl just failed to do it. To understand what must be worked out, you need to know the starting point. I put on diving equipment, go down a couple of meters under the water in 6 meter pool, but beforehand  I give some specific instructions to a lighter and models.

I give a sign to a model who must dive, hold the breath and freeze in a certain pose. We repeat it many times until I emerge to look at what we’ve got and return a verdict: it’s good or we must do it again. And as I am a very emotional person I’m ready to kiss everyone when something turns out but when it doesn’t I can yell. But that time everything was so clumsy that I didn’t even want to yell. We tried this way and that way – the model couldn’t do it: «the air is not enough», «it’s dark and scary», and she had to dive really deep.

So I became sad and began to get cold. But I kept quiet, didn’t criticize her, on the contrary, I tried to be nice, gave advice. And then Katerina came up to me, she was watching all that mess, and said: “I see you’re getting cold. You don’t  like it, do you? “. And at that moment I thought, how one man behind the camera could feel you- the one with the camera. I felt so good because of that union that I asked her to do the same things that we were trying to do a couple of hours, and everything went perfectly well. You can see the result of my inspiration and our overall effort. And this is happiness.

“Underwater Tango” was shot a bit differently, there was no entourage, only a dancing couple. On the one hand it was easier, because you need to learn to work with the objects which are set out in the water – it’s pure physics – people diving and swimming up to the subject move the water  and the location of the object changes. And you should keep it at its place, ride it and make the “right” face, and you should have enough air  for all that. It’s twice difficult  when there is a composition made up of some objects, as in the photo with a scooter and a jellyfish. But the difficulty in Tango was in that you had to interact with another person, and you have different physical preparation, lung capacity, some other features. And yes, you dive separately and embrace properly to show not only a dancing gesture but some emotions as well – it’s just fantastic! Natalia and Yefim took part in that project. Natasha is a choreographer and Yefim had no dance training. I brought pictures of those positions that had inspired me. First they practiced them on the land, then dived and tried to do them under the water. They did it as long as it turned out to be perfect, constantly referring back to what they saw on the screen. They, as well as I wanted to do it right. And no wonder that this series is famous all over the world!

Here are some details about that shooting. On several images there are air bubbles in the background. The fact is that there are diving trainings in this pool, and that day divers and we came at the same time. At first I was upset and angry, but when I looked at the photos, I realized that it’s even better – so there was scope, it gave liveliness. Where there were no bubbles there was a  feeling of abyss.

But probably, that’s the charm- the moment determines the shot.

And there is also another interesting fact, but it is about all of my underwater shooting. I have never had a professional box for my camera, I used quite unpretentious plastic one bought from an individual. And for the lighting, we used either underwater flashlights and lighting of the pool for the inner light or front lights keeping them above the water, for making a daylight ceiling light – by the way we could be killed. We didn’t have professional stylists or property men as well. Everything was done by our own hands. I almost lived in the pool for a year. I even slept there, but shh, nobody knows it;)

By the way, I have not told you what inspired me to make the series Underwater Tango. Here are few factors. In my youth I loved  a singer Linda – her music, lyrics and style. And one of my favorite songs was “A Dance under  the water”. So, that time she got into my field of vision again. Accidentally. But I always say that there are no coincidences. The second factor was my love to the tango. There can not be any comments, who loves it they will understand. And at some moment in my imagination, again thanks to vanity, this image appeared.Nobody has ever done it before, so I must do it.

Katerina Bodrunova

Katerina Bodrunova

Katerina Bodrunova

Katerina Bodrunova

Katerina Bodrunova

Katerina Bodrunova

Katerina Bodrunova

Katerina Bodrunova

© Bleek Magazine. Text and all the images: Katerina Bodrunova.