We focus on not breathing and moving a certain way and there is something very peaceful about that. No time to think. It is almost like survival mode.
Rather than simply shoot her subjects under water, Lola Mitchell, creates an under-world where her liquid tales develop in unexpected ways well beyond the boundaries of…water.
You say that the photograph is just the beginning of your work. What is your artistic process?
This is always a hard question for me to answer. I try to stay really flexible with my process because I think it leads me to try new things. During the spring and summer I shoot as much as I can and because it is pretty exhausting for everyone my shoots are usually pretty short. But one thing is always true, I probably spend more time editing than shooting.
What kind of camera and lenses do you use for your underwater photography and what type of bodies of water do you shoot in?
When I first started shooting underwater I was using a Canon 60D and dicapac bag. I now shoot with a Nikon D810, an ikelite underwater case and flash.
I mostly shoot in pools because they are more accessible. I have shot in the Pacific Ocean off the beach in Malibu and that was a bit hard. Visibility was very poor. I also shot in the Atlantic off the beach in Miami and that was amazing. I would love to do more ocean shoots and probably will when the opportunity arises.
How do you give direction to your models when you are shooting them underwater?
If it is the first time I shoot with a model I don’t. Most times because it is their first time trying to do that and I just want them to get used to it. It is not only swimming underwater gracefully (meaning having to think about their face and the way their bodies move) but also the weight of the dresses I bring. I need to see how they move underwater and then I start asking them to do this and that. The more I shoot with a model, the more we explore what they can and cannot do.
Do you always know what emotions you want each piece to evoke, or do they come to you as you are in the process of creating the images?
I sometimes do while I am shooting but the reality is it is about how I am feeling while I edit. It has happened to me several times to shoot with a clear idea in mind, then come home and have no inspiration or desire to edit. Then I do not. I wait until inspiration hits again. Most times the final picture is completely different from the original idea and I think better.
The commonalities in your work, in your words, are always a female model, movement and stillness, textures and magic… I think the fact that you are able to bring movement and stillness together in each image is incredible. How are you able to do this?
What inspired me about photography always was the ability to freeze movement. I absolutely adore sport and dance photography because it shows the body as it is in the process of moving.
To me swimming is very relaxing. Underwater I feel like I am meditating, I am in the moment. We have to focus on not breathing and moving a certain way and there is something very peaceful about that. No time to think. It is almost like survival mode. It is such a raw state and I think that’s what transpires in all my photos. In fact when I look through my photos I always tend to pick the one where the model is trying to get into a position or is struggling. It is so raw, so beautiful.
What are some of the most memorable reactions you have gotten about your work?
Honestly every time someone buys one of my pieces and I know they will hang it in their home. It feels pretty incredible and I feel very thankful and happy that people like my work.
You can see more of Lola Mitchell’s work here: