By Crystal Chung @crystalkchung
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Videographer / director: Brett Stanley
Producer: Crystal Chung, Ruby Coote
Editor: Sonia Estal
Brett started working with cosplay and fantasy performers such as Ian Hencher, Hannah Mermaid and Reilena Cosplay in 2016, hoping that his latest project would create a setting worthy of their incredible costumes.
Brett said: “I’ve been into water since I was a kid. I was a water baby growing up, I was always in the water and I had a backyard pool; if I wasn’t in there, I was in the ocean.
“When I grew up and became a photographer, it was marrying the two together and it was perfect.”
Although most of the models and cosplay artists that Brett works with had experience working underwater, the professional photographer wanted to make them as comfortable as possible.
He said: “For me, to make a good photo as opposed to an average photo, I think it comes down to a few things. The first thing is the model, that they are believing what they are doing.
“If they are showing fear or if they are not comfortable then it really shows so making them comfortable is half the job of making a good photo.”
Cosplay artists are known to create their own fantasy personas based on animated TV shows, pop culture or their own imaginations, creating the perfect subjects for Brett’s dream-like images.
The Los Angeles based photographer said: “Lighting is everything and making it look the way I want and not making it look natural. For me, I like the surrealness. I like trying to make the scene look dreamlike, to be out of the ordinary.”
And for Brett, he believes that being underwater can help the models to get into their own mind.
He said: “Underwater you can gain that surrealness a lot easier, the weightlessness, the slow motion, it’s the lack of sound down there.
“There’s a silence, you’re in your own head and you're down there with yourself and whatever your thoughts are and they come out in those kind of shots.”
Brett and his models don’t use any breathing apparatus underwater and typical shoots tend to last around an hour per model.
He said: "We don't use any breathing apparatus like scuba gear as I find it more cumbersome than just free diving, so we shoot for one breath and then come up and talk about what we need to change or do better.
“I can hold my breath for over sixty seconds generally, which is usually long enough to get the shots, but I did have three amazing models from Japan who could stay down for three times that long. I tried to keep up and it nearly killed me!
“A typical shoot lasts around an hour per model, although my record for the longest time spent in the water is 10 hours non-stop.”
Going into his shoots, Brett often starts without a plan or an idea in mind for the final shot.
He said: “There are not many of my shoots that I go in with an actual story in mind. A lot of it is a collaboration with the model and perhaps the designer, the stylist, the makeup artist and I feel that it all comes together once we hit the water and the idea comes out.
“I would say to anyone who hasn’t done an underwater shoot – try it. Whether you can swim or not it doesn’t matter.”
To see more of Brett’s incredible photography, visit his website at: www.underwater-photographer.com