We sleep, allowing gravity to hold us, allowing Earth- our larger body- to recalibrate our neurons, composting the keen encounters of our waking hours (the tensions and terrors of our individual days), stirring them back, as dreams, into the sleeping substance of our muscles. We give ourselves over to the influence of the breathing earth. Sleep is the shadow of the earth as it seeps into our skin and spreads throughout our limbs, dissolving our individual will into the thousand and one selves that compose it- cells, tissues, and organs taking their prime directives now from gravity and the wind- as residual bits of sunlight, caught in the long tangle of nerves, wander the drifting landscape of our earth-borne bodies like deer moving across the forested valleys.
― David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology
I am never alone wherever I am. The air itself supplies me with a century of love. When I breathe in, I am breathing in the laughter, tears, victories, passions, thoughts, memories, existence, joys, moments, and the hues of the sunlight on many tones of skin; I am breathing in the same air that was exhaled by many before me. The air that bore them life. And so how can I ever say that I am alone?
Outside, as she passed the kitchen window, she watched her breath appear before her in the lamplight and then it died away in moist clouds. This was the smoke of her internal fire and her soul. Every breath was a letter to the world. These she mailed into the cold air leaning back with pursed lips to send it upward.
― Paulette Jiles, Enemy Women
With each breath a wave can be seen to ascend and descend through the body. The inspiratory wave begins deep in the abdomen with a backward movement of the pelvis. This allows the belly to expand outward. The wave then moves upward as the rest of the body expands. The head moves very slightly forward to suck in the air while the nostrils dilate or the mouth opens. The expiratory wave begins in the upper part of the body and moves downward: the head drops back, the chest and abdomen collapse, and the pelvis rocks forward.
Breathing easily and fully is one of the basic pleasures of being alive.
― Alexander Lowen, The Voice of the Body
I choose not to look upon the fact that I am healthy, have food in my refrigerator and have clean water to drink as givens. They are not givens for so many people in our world. The fact that I am safe and (relatively) sane are not givens. That I was born into a family who loves me and into a country not ravaged by war are not givens. It is impossible to name all of the circumstances in my life I’ve taken for granted. All of the basic needs I’ve had met, all of the friendships and job opportunities and financial blessings and the list, truly, is endless. The fact that I am breathing is a miracle, one I too rarely stop to appreciate.
I’m stopping, right now, to be grateful for everything I am and everything I’ve been given. I’m stopping, right now, to be grateful for every pleasure and every pain that has contributed to the me who sits here and writes these words.
The sun, like a golden knife, was steadily paring away the edge of the shade beside the walls. The streets were enclosed between old, whitewashed walls. Everywhere were peace and stillness, as though all the elements were obeying the sacred law of calm and silence imposed by the blazing heat. It seemed as though mystery was everywhere and my lungs hardly dared to inhale the air.
―Sadegh Hedayat, The Blind Owl
Rhythm creates a pattern of yearning and expectation, of recurrence and difference. It is related to the pulse, the heartbeat, the way we breathe. It takes us into ourselves; it takes us out of ourselves. It differentiates us; it unites us to the cosmos.
Jazz is the music of the body. The breath comes through brass. It is the body’s breath, and the strings’ wails and moans are echoes of the body’s music. It is the body’s vibrations which ripple from the fingers. And the mystery of the withheld theme, known to jazz musicians alone, is like the mystery of our secret life. We give to others only peripheral improvisations.
―Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 5: 1947-1955
Well-crafted portraits capture not only physical attributes, but hint at hidden truths. Underwater photography can provide unique and challenging perspectives.
Public Domain Image via Pexels.com
There is something about being submerged in water that dials directly into the human subconscious. When we view someone through water, especially when they are suspended in it, we feel as if we are seeing something very personal and private. The vulnerability of the human form is readily apparent underwater: movement is more languid and dreamlike, breath is made visible through bubbles, hair is carried away from the face and head while clothing may float away or plaster itself close to the body. Water imparts a sensuality and softness, further enhanced by the blue green light that reaches into its depths.
The challenges of underwater photography are many, even with modern equipment like the Go Pro camera. That blue green light I mentioned can be penetrating, but reds and oranges are lost as we descend, distorting skin tones. Many photos are taken a just few feet below the surface. Shooting close up with a wide angle lens is a must, as shooting through more than a few feet of water creates cloudiness. Costuming can create beautiful effects, but the photographer and model must understand how the fabric will behave underwater and how best to maximize its potential. Models have to be aware of their breathing and how bubbles impact the shot. They also have to be able to hold a pose– and their breath– while slowly floating up to the surface. If they aren’t specifically designed for underwater use, cameras must be waterproofed, which can make them harder to handle. Everything has to be done while the artist and the model are swimming and paying attention to their surroundings, with a minimum of vocal communication.
When it all works… magic!
Over the course of this week (and several posts) I’d like to introduce you to some fantastic artists and encourage you to visit their websites and become more familiar with their work.
Our first post will feature pioneer underwater photographer Bruce Mozert and will focus on photos made in Silver Springs, Florida in the 1950s, when pin-up models went underwater to advertise the premiere tourist destination in Florida. You can read the post here.