On Seeing, A Journal. #341

“Underwater Alphabet”

February 28, 2020

I spent a great deal of time planning and photographing the alphabet underwater with two professional dancers, Tiffany Heft and Eric Hoisington. We started in the “dry” studio: I on a high ladder shooting straight down (vertically) from 12 feet; they laid on a soft floor forming the letters.

We worked out each letter; I made photographs and we went to the pool. It was a simple matter, though extremely challenging, to rotate the line of shooting from vertical to horizontal.

Underwater the dancers could only “feel” the formation of the letters as they could not see what they were doing. When we came up to breathe I would make gentle “tweaks” e.g. “your right arm needs to be rotated down about 5 degrees, and your foot needs to be more a part of the whole and not stick out.” These tiny adjustments seemed endless. Some letters took as long as two hours.

They persisted working so hard as only great dancers can.

A small book, “Body Type” containing all the letters and numbers was published.

I’ve been asked, “What was the most difficult letter to make?

For them it was “U”, because underwater they each had to position themselves upside down and maintain themselves vertically and parallel. This letter took a long time and they suffered for it though never complained despite the sputtering and sneezing.

For me, the most daunting challenges were the number 8 and
letter B.

I kept at it working on my own with little wooden artists’ dolls.

And then it hit me! I figured out that their legs needed to be crossed
to make “8.”

Once we did “8” I asked them to just put their rear ends together and voila! “B”!!

They required the same formation! They were the identically formed.

So fun!