Photoshoot turns into happening (EN)
What was planned to be an underwater photoshoot, turned into a happening with 12 happy nude models and 4 happy photographers. Below are the testimonials of model Sophie and Artemis. At the bottom of this page is my own, rather technical description of the shoot, with some photos.
Testimonial, Model Sophie wrote: "Submerging on an artistic Saturday On a sunny Saturday morning, there was a meeting at a station. There were four girls who didn’t know each other on a road trip. There was a swimming pool at an undisclosed location. The excitement had been lingering ever since the first email arrived, and the welcoming dogs seemed to express that same expectant energy; not knowing fully what would happen, but nonetheless thrilled to be there.
We met with the four equally excited photographers, who, together, encapsulated the elements: there was the air, represented by JP and his drone, and there was the earth, in the body landscaping done by Tom and JP. The water was mainly the domain of Cor, and Oscar who also took photo’s behind the scenes. Also, Tom was on fire, as always. (He asked me to put something in that would praise him, so here it is. Frankly, I would not comply if I didn’t agree and we probably wouldn’t be together at the pool if he wouldn’t have played his part in the organisation. All models have a connection with Tom in one way or another).
Together with eleven others, all beautiful, open-minded and kind women, the day begun. There was a schedule for the individual underwater shoots, and in between, there was room to fill in on the wishes of the other photographers, depending on whether you wanted to or not. In my case, it meant my body touched the snow in the garden, it touched the bodies of the others on a bed whilst being sprinkled with water, and it glanced in the warm sun. The results, so far, are satisfying. And there’s more to come.
The water proved to be a challenge in multiple ways, though some models naturally adapted to the circumstances (not me, it was a lovely struggle). Due to the chlorine, the visibility was less than desirable, so photos had to be taken up close. Furthermore, willingly pushing all the air out of your lungs, to be able to sink below the surface and stay there, was harder than expected. It was an interesting experience, though, that I’d love to repeat and reflect upon. Cor, like the others, was very patient, and made sure we all felt good.
After a luxurious lunch, we all went into the pool together. We attempted synchronised swimming, filmed under water, and did some shots halfway above, halfway below the surface. In between shoots, we left the water to warm up in the shower or the sauna, with as many people we could fit in. The atmosphere was electric, and when the day progressed, everyone got more and more saturated, filled with impressions and slowly getting contentedly tired from all the attention and energy.
When the shadows grew longer, the photographers took their last shots. The peacocks outside continued to roam the field, and inside, we gathered our towels and clothes. Joan looked for glasses and poured the wine. We toasted on a great day and left the barn quite tired, but very happy.
Testimonial, Model Artemis wrote: A day that ebbed and flowed
Once I arrived with three other ladies on the location we were amazed by the elegant peacocks and other animals walking around. We were introduced to the photographers and we were shown the pool. We started by getting rid of our clothes that shifted us from our mundane selves to only bodies.
Being a body was all I needed to be at this moment. Without any guards up I felt total freedom to be my truest self. I than discovered my own beauty being reflected in all the feminine bodies around me. With a purity and gracefulness which raised each other’s vibrations by admiring and loving everything I saw and felt. There is such a strength to be found in feeling safe enough to be totally vulnerable with others.
That day I have witnessed the different forms water can take on. I felt the cold, sharp and numbing sensation of the snow in contact with my skin. The water in the pool was a little bit colder than the temperature of our bodies, which made us want to keep moving and swim to try to stay warm. I felt almost no difference between myself and the water. Bodies around me became like the water, everchanging and flowing with whatever came next. Operating as a whole, a tribe, a sacred circle.
After being in the pool I warmed up in the sauna where sometimes other wet bodies sat next to each other, fogging up the glass. The heat momentarily banished the shivers, which relaxed our muscles and minds. I enjoyed the quiet relaxation. A square meter was optimally occupied by four beautiful bodies. My skin was almost burning by a boiling hot shower, but I did not care. My focus was with the three other women standing next to me. I felt very lucky and grateful to be in their presence and share this moment with them. A moment where I felt really connected and at ease.
Hips and wastes fitted into each other like the pieces of a puzzle. I did not know where my body ended and where another began. It felt as if we became one huge body lying on the bed which moved, breathed in rhythm with each other. I felt hot skin on one side and cold skin on the other side, my body balancing both these extremes. My skin embraced it all, without judgement, without shame.
This all made me very aware of how disconnected and separated I was from others most of the time. But this day was different, I felt alive, whole, and truly a part of something bigger. Switching from warm to cold, to hot again. Times of moving slow, fast or staying perfectly still. All these different moments followed each other up without much resistance. The day felt to me almost like a dance, like the ebbing and flowing of water.
Technical description of the shoot by Tom
In spring 2022 I met Oscar at one of the Dronude Utrecht shoots for which he posed. He has the athletic body of a trained swimmer and works as a maritime researcher. He is also a diver and photographer. Together with Cor Kuyvenhoven they made artistic underwater photos of models. The photos on their websites (Cor, Oscar) and Instagram page are beautiful and inspiring.
Oscar and Cor told me of a planned shoot in an indoor swimming pool and I offered them my help with finding enthusiastic models. I also came with the idea of having a group photoshoot with ten models. Cor was hesitant, since he was used to work with a few models per shoot, not ten. Oscar suggested that we could have two groups of five, a morning group and an afternoon group and that the groups would meet halfway at the shoot-day to form a group of ten. And so my original plan was to help organise a photoshoot by Cor and Oscar.
I made a short list of ten of my favorite models (many of them have a profile page on my workshop website) and approached them. And to my surprise, many of them wanted to join the photoshoot. I was surprised by this positive response, since it was a shoot which was unlike the shoots that I had organised before, and the shoot was with photographers the models didn't know and the models were not paid. It felt like a compliment. But also as a responsibility to make it a great experience for all of the models. I was also impressed when some models that I did not ask, approached me to join as well.
After that, I did some research and got inspired by underwater photography, for example by Ed Freeman, and also 360 degrees photography. I found that recently developed cameras like the Insta360 One Inch could be used for underwater photography. However, there were some potential challenges. 1. the underwater case for this camera was not offered by European sellers, 2. A 360 camera doesn't use a flash and therefore needs a lot of light. And the indoor pool probably didn't have enough light for the camera to take good photos. 3. when photographing ten nude models, probably some models would be concerned about publishing recognisable nude photos. 4. It is vain to expect good photos when you have no experience with a new camera. 5. Models get easily bored which they have to wait between shoots. 6. transporting ten models from and to the train station would cost considerable time. I worked on these challenges by ordering the underwater case via a foreign seller and prioritised delivery, I bought bright lights, I bought 10 white diving masks, I planned a number of tests with cameras and lights and asked an expert for help. The tests showed first what not to do, and finally provided better results. And I planned side shoots at the location and we asked a friend of one of the models to be a driver and cook. And I wrote with help of others a 20+ page projectplan.
On Friday we planned a test shoot with a single willing and brave model. But when we arrived at the location, we had a major setback: the water in the pool was foggy. Apparently the day before a maintenance worker had added bleach to the water which made the water clean but foggy. Under water, we simply could not see anything further than 50 cm from the camera. The kind location owner and we tried all we could to solve the problem and tested shooting with the model, but we had no luck. So we had to change our plans.
That night, we updated our project plan to have water shoots which would not let more than 50 cm of water be between the camera and the models: 1. close up individual under watershoots, 2. shoots from above the water photographing floating models and 3. filming underwater swimming models.
The next morning, there was an unexpected surprise. The previous night it had snowed and a grass field next to the house now had a white snow deck. However, at 09.00 the sun was shining and the snow was melting. So when the first four models arrived, instead of providing them a warm welcome, we gave them a five minute notice to go lie naked in the snow for a droneshoot. :) The brave models accepted and the first beautiful photo was made. The next models that arrived also accepted the challenge, with good results.
After that, the individual underwater shoots started and every ten minutes another model was photographed under water by Cor and Oscar. That left me with the other models. I asked Sophie, Artemis, Muisje and Joan to model for a new logo for my website. I would love to have a new logo in which the beauty of bodies would be captured, and for which some of my favorite workshop models would pose.
After a first logoshoot, another group modeled for a "mountains" bodyscape photo.I felt hesitant to ask models to pose close to each other, for a photo which would clearly be only about their bums, but the models happily posed.
Then, the afternoon models arrived and all eleven models for this day were present. Some models just arrived, some others needed to go home shortly after, so we had some pressure to take great photos with all of the models present. We had a list of ideas. First, the models posed for a group photo at the side of the pool. posing in a half circle, and photographed by cameras with a short focal length, made great photos. However, in these photo's all models are recognizable, and these photos will not be published.
After that the models posed for the Xphase camera and the OneInch which was on a tripod in the middle of the pool. Since the models were not experienced in posing as a group, the photos were not excellent.
What did worked out well was what we did next: we used the GoPros to make underwater film of single and multiple models. A model with a GoPro on her head dived underneath other models, which would swim underwater as well. A spaghetti of models. I would love to see more footage of this idea, with clear water and with the GoPro and the onInch 360. Model Sophie filmed herself whille swimming underwater.
After the group photos, Cor and Oscar shot the remaining individual models and the driver together with his girlfriend. I asked the remaining models for another bodyscape idea: to pose together with water drops on the skin. To have beautiful water drops on your skin, you first add oil, and then spray water with a plant sprayer. Excellent results, and the models made funny noises when they were hit by cold water.
After that, I was happy but exhausted from all the impressions that I had during the day. The models happily posed, and the location was great in having a sauna and a hot shower. All shoots were cold for the models: the snow, the pool water, the plant sprayer. But after every shoot, the models could walk into a hot shower or sit in the sauna. Both were small, but somehow the models didn't mind to shower with four models in a single person shower. The photographers saw beautiful images, and the models were happy to be photographed. After some snacks, the models wanted to go home, and I packed my stuff and brought one of the models to Utrecht. It was a tiring, but interesting and fruitful day. And I felt happy. The impressions that lasted were the realisation that models that didn't know each other felt really happy to pose and to be close together, that having multiple photographers working unscripted with individual and small groups of models is fun for photographers and models and it gives models freedom to join a shoot if it feels right at that moment, that this day felt like a mini-festival or a happening, and finally that I would love to do it all over with clear water, and the same or more models.
Lessons learned: the atmosphere at the shoot felt really good. The models were mostly new to each other, but enjoyed modelling together and even showered with four models in a single person shower. To do: Explore the idea of creating more of such model-photography-happenings. Can I find a deeper pool with clear water? Also: think about what would be a suitable platform to share 360 footage? Ideas for future shoots: Another AirBnB with pool photo happening, or a happening near open water with underwater vegetation, or a happening at a festival. Or a happening at a villa, for example in a warm location in Spain?