Memory of Water returns the Body to its first, and most natural, element. We begin our existence floating safe in an amniotic sea and are born into the world instinctively knowing water is life. The fluidity of this collection of indoor and outdoor nude photographs remind us of this essential connection with water.
View a video on the exhibition and the opening here.
This was an image that was almost never made. Ellen had just finished posing in the nearby river, and was beginning to get dressed when I caught a glimpse of the evening sky in the darkening water by the river’s edge. Ellen was dubious initially, as the water was more of a marsh than a pool, but when Joy, my partner, suggested she could simply crouch in the water on a piece of flat wood board, Ellen moved into position, and the image was created. 6x12 cm film
Ingrid is incredibly accomplished at finding poses in water - basically a featureless flat plane to pose upon. This image was a combination of her suggestion (basically leaning back) with a bit of refinement based upon the scene - asking her to slowly move her heads and shoulder until she was surrounded by the reflection of the sky in the water. Digital, six frame exposure blend, two image stitch
Fern’s comment on this image underlines the difference between the extreme arch portrayed in the image, and the actual pose - “I loved being in this position – I didn’t want to get out of the water. The rapids felt like a Jacuzzi, and my whole body felt completely fresh and alive. I love the way the water makes my body shine, and the way my legs disappear into the froth at the bottom of the image.“ 8"x10" film
As soon as I saw the foliage and sky reflected in the smooth water, I knew I wanted to make an image of R_ set against that tableau. Made with a 35mm camera, I normally would have been concerned by how out of focus the background would have to be, given I needed a fast exposure to keep the water frozen. Fortunately, I happened to have the loan of a shift lens, which permits 35mm cameras to have both perspective and focus correction. 35mm film
With this image, the triangle of light from the sky above the river blends seamlessly with the water grasses just below the surface - Ingrid’s reclining figure becomes the dividing line between the two. The flow of the river follows Ingrid’s limbs perfectly, and provides an almost indistinguishable divide between the grass below the water and the reflection on its surface. 6x12 cm film
The physical nature of water lends itself to long, languid poses, but this image takes that approach to an extreme. Created in a river bend below a steep hill of evergreen trees, the only light for the image came from the open sky above. The pale green water grasses and the portions of Ingrid which were underwater blurred during the 1/4 second exposure, adding to the dream-like quality of the image. 6x12cm film
I have often wondered how long I’d be able to find new and engaging images to create. Then an image like this comes along, which almost leapt off the ground glass of the camera and demanded to be made. The flow of Ingrid’s legs into the stream of the river, and the languid grace of her hand set against the white foam, made the composition just perfect. 8"x10" film
I have such a dislike for photographing on bright, sunny days that when Ingrid suggested an ice-nude session, all I could think was that if I was lucky, I might find some ice in a shady spot. Little did I know how important the direct sunlight would be to the strongest image of the day.
For this entire session, I struggled with the blinding sunlight, struggling to find images and poses that would work with difficult light. Towards the end of the session, I suggested Carol lie in a narrow tidal pool, facing upwards into the sun. If it wasn’t for the reflection in the water, I am not sure that it would be obvious that this was a water-nude; as it is, the highlight at the bottom of the image mirrors the swell of her upper breast, making the image more tonally rich. 6x7 cm film
When I finally began working in the indoor water set in Halifax, it was with most of the major hurdles already overcome. Instead of trying to solve problems, the eight sessions over two days were, for the most part, spent making new images and, more importantly, being inspired by the work in progress. This image of Andree was made on the morning of the second day, halfway through the project, but it is a direct evolution of a series of images created on the first day, early on into the project.
On this day, Miranda and I headed to the beach specifically for a sunset session, a rare treat as the busy lives of models usually precluded working this late. An eight-second exposure rendered the lightly rippling water smooth and delicate. Miranda stayed more then still enough for the long exposure, allowing the water to became a generalized blur around her. 6x7cm film
Liam’s emergence from the ocean is just magical, as is the tension in both his hands. An unexpected element of this session was Liam’s willingness (and indeed, enthusiasm) for working in the ocean. While the Atlantic Ocean is actually at its warmest in October, by mid-September, the air temperature is low enough to make it seem quite the opposite, so when Liam first volunteered to pose in the ocean proper, I tried to discourage him. Forty minutes later, he was still in the ocean! Digital
When I made this image, Ingrid and I had been working together for more than six years, yet I did not have a single portrait that looked like her. Then, towards the close of this wonderful river session, I made this image. It is, without a doubt, the best portrait of Ingrid I have ever made. 8"x10" film
Many of the figures in my water nudes are reclining, languid bodies; this comes directly from incorporating the body into the lines and form of the water spaces in which they are set . With this image, however, I took advantage of the granite boulders the river twisted through, and asked Ingrid to work between the river rocks, focusing on the space above the water as opposed to the river itself. Digital infrared, 9 frame stitch
There is a simple beauty to an image like this that is impossible to create artificially - the flow of the rock lines and the lines of Fern’sbody are in harmony, and the faint wisps of the swirling water provide a beautiful contrast to the static detail of the granite rocks. Working from almost directly above Fern helped create an unusual perspective for the image an image that could be displayed in almost any orientation. 8"x10 film
When I designed the pool for the indoor water set, I didn’t think too much about the possibilities of working with multiple models in the space yet, as it turned out, three of the eight sessions were with two models. This forced a change in approach and, for the most part, as opposed to making images of entire bodies, I changed my compositions to be closer and more intimate, yielding a more abstracted view of the bodies. Digital infrared
This image has everything I look for in a water nude - the water drops on skin are just perfect, and the lines where Brianna’s body disappeared under waster are just a delight to behold. The real magic to the imagewas that it is a two-frame stitch but, as opposed to stitching for resolution (which was increased slightly by the stitch, but not much), it was stitched to increase depth of field. Digital infrared, two frame stitch
I was visiting Fredericton for a couple of days in October and the weather was warm enough to permit an afternoon session outdoors. As soon as we arrived on the hillside where we would work, Jenn began to ask about working in the water. I questioned the logic of this, given how cool the evening was getting, but she just looked at me, raised an eyebrow and said “I’m from Newfoundland!“ Digital
While I was setting up my camera, Elisabeth was trying to find a pose that might work with the rock ledge she was on. While she was moving around, I caught the line of her body, and asked her to pause. I used a wide-angle lens to accentuate the water in the foreground, while keeping the flow of the river behind Elisabeth. 8"x10" camera
An unexpected direction opened up by the indoor water nudes was the exploration of motion. While the inspiration for these images, Surfacing, was a still water nude, I quickly realized that, in the studio, flash made it possible to freeze the water at any point. At least once during each session, I asked the model to repeat a motion that produced interesting ripples and tried to capture the results. Digital infrared
As soon as I saw the water swirling between the huge rocks in North River, I wanted to make an image of a body emerging from the river’s current. Positioning the camera and framing the composition were actually more of a challenge than finding the pose - as soon as Fern was in the space, she settled right in between the stones and the pose just came together. The sense that Fern’s form is emerging from the water is what makes this image work for me. 8"x10" film
The inspiration for this image was less the water in which Mia was lying, than the sky above it. As I explored the space, I began to realize how strong the lines in the sky were, and experimented with reflecting this with Mia’s figure in the foreground. I was a little worried about the prominence of her knee emerging in the foreground, but the sweep of the image, with the water reflecting the sky, shifts the emphasis easily from the knee, to the overall figure. Digital infrared, 2 image stitch
Part of the magic of photography lies in the fact that it is never possible to predict which image will succeed. After working in this space for four years, this was the first image that really captured the drama inherent to the setting. The crowning element of the image is how still the figure is - Miles worked hard to hold the pose during the four second exposure, and succeeded marvelously. 8"x10" film
Coming at the end of an afternoon of photographing on the rocks and surf of the Atlantic coast, the models were finishing up the session by posing in tidal pools higher on the beach. The sun was setting behind thin, low clouds, producing a golden glow around the model; framing her torso against the light made a stunning colour image. This photograph would eventually serve as the inspiration for the indoor water nudes I’d eventually produce more than eight years later. 35mm film
As I worked with Natasha in Gold River, I became fascinated with the difference between how the image looked in reality, where I could barely tell where her body became submerged in the water, and the image viewed in infrared on the camera, where the transition was instantly apparent. The more I work with my digital infrared camera, the more I learn about infrared light - my eight years of using infrared film were a drop in the bucket. Digital infrared, 4 image stitch
I purposefully framed Miranda’s figure against the white-water flowing behind her, using it to separate her from the background. The results were even more successful then I had hoped, as her wet hair almost blends into the rocks and dark water below her. 8"x10" film
Shortly before this image was made, Caitlin had volunteered to pose, so I spent the last images of the day working with two models, as opposed to one. I chose to create a very static composition, with the central horizon dividing the rich drama of the sky from the more muted tones of the beach below which are anchored by the two reclining figures. Digital, 11 frame exposure blend, 4 frame stitch
When working outdoors, the addition of a second model to a location is often a real challenge - fitting one body into a setting can be hard enough and inserting a second ups the ante. Indoors, however, is often the reverse, with a second model often leading to a more striking composition. The water set was more like the outdoor experience, with the second body presenting a real challenge in regards to position, pose and placement. Digital infrared, four image stitch
We didn’t have much time to dedicate to the session, as Joe was on a short visit from Florida, so we headed out in the early evening to the closest river. The light for the session was wonderful, with a clear sky lighting the river below. The air temperature dropped rapidly though, calling a swift close to the session, but not before a number of striking images were created. 6x7 cm film