Underworlds

This artistic research has its point of departure in a personal experience. For over twenty years, I have lived by the shores of a river that has become polluted. I have long been observing the transformations of this stream, the changes in its ecosystems as well as the disappearance of some of the animal species that used to live in it. I wished to create a body of work that would bear witness to these man-made upheavals.

This body of work has started during a stay in Southern Florida in 2008. I made some exploratory shots with a small submersible camera. Since then, I have acquired a watertight tank that allows me to photograph underwater environments of all kinds. Up to now, I have taken shots in various lakes, rivers, swamps and in the sea. I have documented the Florida Keys, the Louisiana bayous, the Gulf of Mexico, The New York Bay and other areas.

This project was mostly developed during artist residencies at A Studio In The Woods / Tulane University (New Orleans), Rauschenberg Residency (Captiva Island, Florida), The Studio of Key West (Florida) and Sitka Center for Art and Ecology (Oregon).

I photograph from an unfamiliar vantage point, eschewing capture from shoulder height. These views from the inside create a relation of closeness between the onlooker and the site being documented. They take us closer to these environments by plunging us in their midst, as it were.

Over the years the project has evolved continuously. I push my creative boundaries by tackling different issues and experimenting with the camera. In Florida, I have captured aquatic plants, salt marshes and intertidal wetlands. These ecosystems are fragile and the Sunshine State is home to an astonishing array of natural and environmental disasters such as hurricanes, floods, algal blooms, sea level rise and coastal erosion. I was particularly interested in mangroves because they are well adapted to harsh environments and to sea level fluctuations. They contribute to ecological resilience by filtering the water and by providing better protection to coastal hazards.

I have also observed altered ecosystems near New Jersey’s Chemical Coast and the Staten Island boat graveyard. In these water bodies, the lack of dissolved oxygen poses a threat to aquatic life. These desolate expanses are suffused in a wavering light endowing them with a strange, disturbing beauty. Leaving crystal-clear waters to vacationers, I often preferred to capture images in troubled waters.

These works probe our relation to water, underscoring its vital importance. Ecological disasters such as the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico or the garbage slates forming on the oceans are becoming more frequent. Massive urbanization and industrialization have resulted in impoverished bio-diversity; they also bring risks for human health. The declining state of bodies of water certainly counts among the most worrisome environmental issues.

A body of work of a hundred large format images