“What better way to engage a child’s curiosity and inspire community support for sea life than to create truly unique underwater art?” wonders photographer Brett Stanley. So, he embarked on an ambitious project of creating a photo essay that involved World War II diving gear, a real-life mermaid, and lots of imagination. The Diver and the Mermaid project was born, a photo series commemorating the brave divers from history, but also inspiring our wonder and curiosity.
For this project, Brett teamed up with a professional mermaid and an underwater model Hannah Fraser, a commercial diver Joshua Myers, and a documentary filmmaker Justin Lutsky. They didn’t only do the underwater shoot, but also filmed a short documentary about the whole process.
Joshua says that he’s always dreamed of wearing a real World War II diving suit for a shoot. So, when the photographers contacted him for this photo essay, there was no way he was going to say no. “I felt like I had gone straight into a vintage undersea science fiction movie,” he describes the photoshoot.
He was wearing a genuine World War II-era dive suit, complete with an authentic brass helmet. This type of suit alone weighs around 19 pounds (8.5kg), so you can imagine that it was quite a challenge for a modern-day diver to wear it. Joshua and Hannah dove into the cold 60° F (15° C) water at Catalina Island to help Brett tell the story of a treasure-seeking diver who meets his fate deep below the surface!
“I looked out of the top face port of a brass-heavy gear helmet at a real-life mermaid descending into the depths,” Joshua recalls. “Beside me, my self-built treasure chest glistened and reflected light off the gold and jewels. The only sound I could hear was the air hissing into my helmet. The mermaid would swim up to me for minutes at a time as the water surged back and forth against the rocky Catalina reef, and the camera strobes would flash, capturing magic every time.”