ABOUT THE UWLF PROJECT
The photographs made with the film large format cameras still remain popular nowadays. Herewith the story of the underwater large format seems to be unrevealed. After the works of Louis Boutan, Jacob Reighard and other researchers in the late XIX – early XX centuries the use of large format cameras for underwater shooting has stopped. Since that times almost nobody has taken the photographs using this technique. Working on this project we had a chance to continue the story of the subaquatic large format. For our part we saw a high potential in such shooting technique. We decided not to use the sealing of the camera, this decision gave us the opportunity to work with our camera under the water as if it were on land. Also thanks to this we realized our project at most rough conditions: in the North, far from the sea, with the simple equipment.
The photos presented on this website are made under water using only a hand-made 18 X 24 cm box camera.
Our goal was to achieve simplicity and candor in our photos to be distinguished in their pattern, mood and technical imperfectness from the gloss of modern digital images. We sought to explore the possibilities of old film-shooting techniques and their aesthetic qualities. The same purpose led us to use old-fashioned diving equipment as we searched for inspiration among traditional divers, such as Japanese ama and Korean Haenyeo; first light divers, military divers, and scuba divers researchers.
Simple archaic pictures provoke strange feelings and mystic images, something enigmatic, gothic, masquerade. Masks covering the face, ropes around the body, baggy dry suites, hoses, straps, mouth pieces, and nodes... Like a weighted puppet sinking into the water, where it has the minimal reserve of oxygen and no visibility... The water pressure rising with every meter closer to the lake floor... The light fading away... The temperature dropping... Fear, loneliness, isolation. In a world where a human is a stranger, the diver has to act against his instincts. It is a hostile and dangerous world that does not forgive mistakes or panic.
But if you overcome the dark side and if your desire to push the limits is stronger than your fears, you will discover other space, the one of silence and tranquility. Something soothing and calming, charming, beautiful, bright and inviting. The Ocean is great. Its underworld is peculiar, mysterious and multifaceted.
With this project we wanted to honor the first underwater photographers who opened the door for us into this world. We conducted the project against the rules, with no expert help, safety equipment or experience. However, this allowed us to go backward, to return in times when those rules were created, and to appreciate the efforts of the pioneer underwater photographers. By resorting to obsolete simple technologies, both in photography and diving, we tried to recreate the conditions when the human had to rely on his intelligence, memory, senses and intuition, rather than a computer.
The fruit of our work is a series of black-and-white photographs that evoke rather contradictory emotional associations. The use of a monocular and a pinhole, large format film, contact print, the artifacts on the images and the absence of mechanical shutter allow for artistic originality of the photographs and reveal unexpected angles of the images.
Our project fills up the possibilities of underwater photography with the simple and original technique, amplifies the artistic, aesthetic and technical variety of subaquatic shooting, allows the large format camera to take same place under the water as it has on land.