It sounds like a complicated math equation: If you have 20 nude models, a large swimming pool, three assistants, one photographer who can’t swim, and less than a minute per dive, how many shots will it take to get the perfect image?
As unpredictable as those variables may be, that’s the reality of Ed Freeman’s productions. Freeman’s underwater photography features the lithe bodies of dancers and models interacting across the picture plane. And while the production is “fairly substantial,” Freeman says, it’s also “very low-tech.” Freeman and his assistants use basic tools to direct and manipulate natural light on a larger scale. “We put a translucent tent over the entire pool to diffuse the sunlight,” he explains. “Sometimes we put a big plastic mirror on the bottom. I work with three or four assistants, one of whom is in charge of keeping everything—and everybody—spotlessly clean so that no dust or suntan lotion ends up in the water, which can cloud it.”
Freeman himself is weighted down to the bottom of the pool with a 20-pound weight, which allows him to walk around during his short dives. But, as he isn’t a swimmer, he says: “Several times I’ve had to be rescued by my models or assistants when I couldn’t get back up to the surface.”
The productions have grown in size since he began this body of work. Freeman began with a single model but “very quickly” increased the scale. Due to the unpredictable nature of directing so many models, he says “for every good picture, there are hundreds of throwaways,” But Freeman is also a self-proclaimed “Photoshop junkie,” and he perfects the final compositions in post, from editing out every magnified, backlit spot of dust, to compositing entire bodies. “Underwater shoots are the most fun of any of the work I do,” Freeman says, “and I’ll keep doing them for as long as I can.” —Jacqui Palumbo
Ed Freeman was the First Place winner in the Professional Fine-Art category of The Body competition. See all of the winning work here.