OPINION: Clara Maidment on shooting BGT team

Photographer Clara Maidment discusses shooting Nichole de Carle’s first swimwear collection underwater with synchronised swim team Aquabatix, members of which featured in the recent 2012 series of Britain’s got Talent.

I have been working with Nichole for the past year on a number of different projects and was very excited when she brought this new project to me for the launch of her first swimwear collection.

Nichole has a very strong brand image: elegant, sexy and bold. Synchronised swimmers are strong and exceptionally graceful, and beautiful in the water, so they were an obvious choice for this shoot. Once she had decided that she wanted to shoot with them underwater, the problem then became how. Underwater photography can be extremely costly and there are a number of health, and safety, issues that have to be considered. Shooting from outside of a tank instead of in a large pool reduced the budget and complications of the shoot considerably, although it brought a number of other issues into play.

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After hair and make-up were done, we quickly briefed the girls but, while we had some idea of where we wanted to start. I let the process of the shoot be fairly organic, directing in small steps but allowing the girls use their own lissomeness to find the shots that worked.

Shooting fashion with non-models, there are always different challenges to face, regardless of how beautiful or graceful the subjects are. The girls were phenomenal on the day and the final shots look effortless. However, the reality was that, though I was able to direct them verbally via an underwater speaker system, they could not see me. Yet, they had to keep their eyes open underwater while holding their breath. Plus, the lights made the tank and the warehouse extremely warm, making the shoot conditions even more challenging for myself and the girls.

Another difficulty with a tank shoot is that the water quality declines rapidly once the girls are in the tank, meaning that we had a limited amount of time to get the shots done before the water became too compromised to produce good images.

Of course, the advantage we had in using synchronised swimmers over models is that the girls were completely comfortable in the water, and were able to move in the water in a completely natural way. I was able to shoot them in striking and unusual poses that not only enabled me to showcase the swimwear inventively, but also added an element of fantasy and grace that simply couldn’t have been achieved outside of that environment.

What is wonderful about working with Nichole is that she is always up for new challenges. Her pieces are luxurious and detailed, and complex, and it’s great to have the opportunity to explore these elements creatively from a photographic perspective, hopefully adding value to the designs and to the brand. I think it’s important that brands not be afraid to push creative boundaries when it comes to photography and we’ve shown that shoots like these needn’t have ludicrous budgets to make an impact.

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