Art, fiction, non-fiction, inspired by New York’s underwater spaces.
Another addition to the list of online sites distributing underwater media: NOAA has recently released the National Marine Sanctuaries Media Library.
In a news release on the site, they write that “The media library is part of a continuing NOAA effort to enhance public awareness, understanding, and appreciation of the marine environment. It was created to provide a resource for numerous audiences, including students, educators, publishers, conservation organizations and individuals looking for compelling marine-related images.” As is common in many of these online underwater photo and video distribution hubs (see also, The Ocean Channel, EarthOCEAN, etc.) the spread of images is itself framed as a potential mobilizer of environmental action. If we can just see the beauty under the surface, we will be compelled to stop the destruction.
These sites are fairly distinct from underwater media fan sites such as ScubaTube and AquaBank. These sites feature user generated content more prominently, forground the adventure of descending beneath the water, and tend to have images of female bikini-clad divers rather than environmentalist rhetoric on the periphery.
There is an emerging field of underwater forensics and investigation. It stretches from the more traditional underwater investigation of sunken ships, to the retrieval of bodies and evidence from lakes and rivers, to (most recently) the investigation of coral reefs. A series of workshops (called Coral Reef CSI) have been established to train marine biology invetigations (among a variety of other people) in techniques of crime scene investigation. The International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) has established a Committee on Coral Reef Enforcement in order to develop protocols for this practice.
What is interesting about this practice, in terms of underwater media, is that evidence can never really be seen in itself. It’s collected by divers who have to look through goggles, through water, with the help from an extensive technical apparatus. They can only stay underwater for an hour and often (in the case of reefs) have to be careful not to further damage the living object they are examining. In this way it parallels a medical examination.
In addition, water is a medium itself – sometimes it washes away critical pieces and at other times works to preserve the objects/bodies/incidents.
Also, FYI, 2008 is International Year of the Reef.
New Orleans photographer Kevin Beasley is acclaimed for his underwater bride photography, where he submerges women in wedding dresses in water. An article in the Providence journal discusses this as part of a larger “Trash the Dress” trend, where brides are photographer being “sassier,” “sexier,” and dirtier (though Beasley says these dresses are not trashed). Taking brides into an underwater environment represents the latest way to make your wedding singular and unique (underwater space is a sort of extreme space).
What is interesting is that in most of these photos, the brides are alone, floating in limbo, a white dress against a dark background. They are still, eyes open, sometimes gazing at their reflection in the surface, often gazing at the camera. Captured underwater, these women are preserved in a moment of stasis, weightlessness, and reflection after taking the plunge.