“Through my underwater work, I strive to convey a visceral response to the movement I capture. We all know what it feels like to be suspended in water. Even if someone doesn’t like water and doesn’t know how to swim, every human innately knows the feeling of floating in the womb” explains Los Angeles based photographer Mallory Morrison concerning her ethereal series Underwater Choreography. The resulting poetic photographs are truly otherworldly, transporting us to realms of the imagination that feel fragile yet tangible.
Already equipped with her own extensive experience with dance and choreography, Mallory first discovered underwater photography ten years ago while studying at the Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara. They had a pool that the students could use. Initially frustrated by the limitations of photographing dancers with the limitations posed by “the cold, concrete space” that was her studio, the idea of capturing the dancers underwater sprang to mind. Her surf photographer friend lent her an underwater housing, and after the first photo session she was hooked. Ten years later and Mallory is primarily photographing underwater fine art work projects.
Mallory and her assistants usually shoot in residential swimming pools around Los Angeles, holding their breath throughout the entirety of each photo session: “I explain thoroughly before each different setup what I would like my subjects to do. I then count down 3, 2, 1… and then we all go under”. The lighting is handheld and controlled by Mallory’s assistants. Free diving, time is precious; for the magic to happen in a scene, there needs to be good communication from its conception.
Expanding upon the idea that we as humans all innately know what it feels like to float in the womb, the photographer uses this idea and aesthetic to tell different stories that are all part of the human experience: “the feeling of loneliness, confusion, finding your balance, and searching for your purpose, to name a few. Utilizing the underwater environment can reveal honest moments that you cannot get in our normal environment.” Through choreography, Mallory hopes to utilize her dancer subjects to tell these stories.
All images © Mallory Morrison