Over the past thirty years I’ve been working on Through a Liquid Mirror, a series of photographs about the ocean. I’ve shot shipwrecks, aquatic animals, seascapes, and people underwater. Lately, I’ve been particularly fascinated with Akule, a fish that forms extremely large and coordinated schools, creating amazing shapes.
So when I was asked to shoot Vanessa, a personal trainer, it seemed like a unique opportunity to combine the mission of Showing with my own body of work. Vanessa was in the midst of training a young woman for a triathlon—one third of which is the open-water swim.
Vanessa, Personal Trainer
2012, © Wayne Levin
We went out to Hanauma Bay, on the island of Oahu. It was the most protected place I knew, somewhere where we could expect to have reasonably clear water. We had to swim out beyond the reef to a calmer area. When we got there, I told the subjects to swim toward me, and I dove down as they swam over me.
For me, it was amazing to see this woman—8-months pregnant—confidently swimming in the open ocean. The physicality of it was inspiring. It changed the way I think about the physical limitations of pregnancy.
In fact, several years later, my cousin visited Hawaii when she was 8 months pregnant. She wanted to go for a swim, so I took her out to Honaunau Bay on the island of Kona, where I lived. To make a long story short, we ended up surrounded by a school of dolphins. They formed a tight circle around us and started making clicking noises. I realized later that they were actually echolocating her fetus.
Just my luck: I didn't have my camera that time.