These truly breathtaking underwater photographs by American
photographer Mark Yasenchak number among the most fascinating images that
Ive ever seen in my entire career as a publisher of art photos.
Didnt all human life begin in water? And isnt water the life-giving element par excellence?
Magical blue hues and the seeming weightlessness of the submerged body imbue these photos with a very special poetry.
Even couples making love underwater are photographed artfully and aesthetically. Lust and eroticism appear here in an entirely new and exciting dimension.
Matthias Reuss, publisher
Press comments and reviews
"Yasenchak's photos are startlingly brilliant. His
models make the water boil. A sensational and thus far unique book."
"Breathtaking underwater photographs. The apparent
weightlessness of the body in water and the magical blue tone give these photos
an especially poetic note."
"Underwater Love is a collection of photos imbued
with unique poetry and eroticism. The refracted light gives the bodies an
unreal appearance. One can feel the reduced gravity and the continual motion
of the photographer and his models."
"Mark Yasenchak has devoted his life to eroticism
underwater. His first book presents exciting, new perspectives on lust: breasts
that stand tall beneath the waves like sea anemones; opened thighs in the
magically erotic blue of the deep."
"A book that you simply must have if you're planning
a 'hot' beach vacation
"In a very refreshing way, Mark Yasenchak has
succeeded with his concept of staging erotic art underwater."
1. Foreword of this book
Women Underwater - A Brief History
Since the birth of imagination, man has envisioned the female form under the water. Be it in the form of a water nymph, mermaid, siren of the sea or the Lady of the Lake - a vision of woman's beauty suspended in water as a return to the warm liquid environment of the womb where human consciousness begins. Mythology, folklore and legend worldwide abound with tales and images of these submerged beings.
For centuries, paintings have only alluded to the flowing hair, soft bleached skin and buoyant breasts that these creatures must possess. Then in the 1800's the invention of the glass aquarium gave the public its first glimpse of the mermaid in person. Theatre and carnival sideshows began exploiting gutsy gals who could hold their breath for two minutes and languidly squirm with fabric tails on their legs. This was soon followed by 'underwater spectaculars' staged in swimming pools with glass viewing ports. The public saw the mesmerizing beauty of women moving under water and the 'water ballet' was born.
Photography was the first widely distributed medium to give substance to the buoyant grace and fluid movement of women under water. Cramped with a vintage movie camera in his awkward 'underbelly' steel snorkel, William Bebe first documented the actual wonders of the ocean reef in the Bahamas. Western civilization of the 1920's was hooked and couldn't get enough thrilling images of the 'denizens of the deep.' Since sex always sells and naked women were the earliest subjects of photography, it didn't take long for enterprising lensmen to combine the two.
Burlesque stagings of the 'underwater striptease' are the earliest examples of photographing women under water for erotic content. "Girl in the tank" burlesques and magic shows are still popular today. Even the Folies Bergère recently sported an act featuring a trained dolphin stripping the clothes off of its voluptuous trainer! During the 1930's, Australian swimming champion Annette Kellerman thrilled stadiums with her breath holding and underwater ballets. Hollywood too was quick to exploit the medium, starting with stage dance spectaculars that ended up being photographed through glasspaneled swimming pools, and culminating with fullscale underwater stages designed to show-case the balletic grace of Esther Williams.
If the public accepted it, there was an even greater market in adult entertainment. Nude and glamour photographers of the 40's and 50's were hot on the trail and ready to showcase the female form at its most buoyant and vulnerable. Legendary glamour photographer Peter Gowland created the greatest body of work exploring the beauty of women underwater. Andre De Dienes made several notable studies. The young sport of scuba diving gave new access to the underwater world. Coupled with the insatiable need for males to see females nude, anywhere, scuba's novelty contributed to a productive wave of 60's nudist films, showcasing nude swimming, nude scuba diving and lovers' secret midnight skinny-dip! In the quest for the unique and shocking, the adult film industry occasionally filmed sex underwater during the 70's and early 80's. Soon the novelty wore off, however, and images of sex underwater became as rare as the giant squid.
Serious attempts to display women in the sea, interacting with sea life, still remain a scant collection of films and images. Derek Berwin and David Barber published an entire book dedicated to training models and then photographing them in the open ocean. Herwarth Voigtmann documented his nude models feeding and interacting with dangerous sea life in many films and photo collections. David Pilosof's 'Samantha' project on the reefs of the Red Sea is another great example of these brave attempts to train models to work nude in the dangerous environment of the open ocean.
Now the 21st century. Women have been photographed underwater for every possible reason you can imagine: selling swimwear, bottled water, haircare products and even automobiles. But using the underwater environment as a stage for erotica is a discipline reserved for very few, mostly due to the extreme difficulties, time and expense of working under water. Not to mention the problem of finding models who can endure the hardships while making it all look effortless.
What's the interest?
As with any male-oriented fetish, the genre of women underwater has as many subjects, nuances and desires as it has fans. From the fluently weightless grace of the hair and body; the buoyancy of the fleshy curves that make the female form so intoxicating; bubbles exploding from the lips; the autoeroticism of the breath hold; the potential asphyxiation of being without air; the thrill of the inherent danger of the environment; masked, covered in rubber, gear strapped all about; 360-degree spherical access to the body, truly threedimensional; to simply the naughtiness of doing something under water where no one else can see you! For the photographer working underwater, life is an endless battle of training models for the environment, trashing camera gear in flooded housings, healing ear infections and swollen red eyes - all made worthwhile for the occasional 'hero shot' that cannot be captured in the gravitybound world above the water.
About These Images.
I make moving images. Underwater means movement to me. I think in terms of movement through time, not the frozen instant. That's why I'm a filmmaker. An instant underwater without a bubble or some proof of the environment negates why I struggle to work in this environment. However, the images contained in this collection are selected and juxtaposed with a different set of eyes than my own. Fortunately, a very fresh, inventive and enthusiastic set of eyes.
Matthias Reuss has masterfully culled through tens of thousands of images fired off as documentation for video productions or as shots during glamour shoots. He's created a very fresh and conceptual view of the erotica that happens in my world. Through his eyes, Matthias Reuss embraces the novelty, shock, art and serendipity of my photo adventures with women and erotics, which present a bold awakening to those who've never imagined what types of images can be captured under the water.
Ultimately, this book is not about controlled underwater photography, but conceptual art. These images could have been snapped by anyone with a waterproof camera, had he or she been 'on the scene.' But, of course, being there, because you're the one who staged the scene, well, that's everything, isn't it? Conceptual art is the idea, the creation of the event. Photography is the technical demon that spoils your fun when you're there! I hope this collection inspires many to get their models wet, while keeping their cameras dry and creating their own visions in the underwater world. Because I'd like to see them.
2. Foreword of this book
Sea of Love
"And the great water sighed for love"
W. B. Yeats
Kahili was the largest and strongest member of the community that inhabited the gigantic pool. He couldn't complain about lack of company, and he was seldom alone for very long. He nonetheless seemed to enjoy the rare times without companions, when he would usually float languidly at the water's surface. Of course, the pool didn't offer the unlimited freedom of movement that was available in the open ocean, but the members of the community had become accustomed to their situation. And besides, boredom was alien to their very nature. They spent their days in athletic competitions: the program included a variety of jumping and swimming disciplines, and even dancing lessons were part of the daily schedule. The rewards for good performance in the watery element were lavish and guaranteed. There was no shortage of time nor any lack of opportunities to chat with one another. Laughter was frequent, both above and below the water.
The most important theme of these conversations, which were accompanied with lively gestures, involved the relationships among the inhabitants: love or hatred, jealousy or mutual respect, and above all, sex. Although most of the community's members lived in heterosexual monogamous relationships, complex relationships with other partners were readily tolerated. The female members of the community weren't necessarily required to play a passive role: they too sometimes took the initiative in flirting with the males. The joy and lust of physical love in every conceivable variation, not excluding homosexual activities, was a not inessential component in the daily lives of the pool's inhabitants. Kahili had sex nearly every day: it was a movement-intensive and captivatingly beautiful activity in which he could invest all his strength and intelligence.
It began with pursuit as he stalked the partner of his choice almost as though she were his prey rather than his intended paramour. The couple knifed through the water at high speed, side by side, their heads up or down, changing direction frequently and abruptly. Sometimes Kahili would bump his head into the curvaceous body of the object of his passion or tirelessly chase her until she suddenly surrendered to the overwhelming power of masculine desire and allowed him to gently raise her to the surface. Floating there belly downwards, she would await Kahili's erect organ as he approached her from behind and penetrated her with a brief sequence of pelvic thrusts. Both partners enjoyed repeatedly rubbing their bodies against each other, enhancing the pleasure of their copulation with ingredients drawn from an inexhaustible repertory of bodily caresses.
Sex is an essential motive force in evolution. The exchange and recombination of genes, which is possible only through sexual reproduction, generated a diversity of individuals which significantly increased survival chances for their descendants. Sexual selection is a crucial contribution towards finding partners and conceiving offspring which are endowed with the best possible genetic makeup - and thus we humans evolved so that sex was fun and pleasurable for us. In many respects, this also applies to the Hawaiian dolphin named Kahili who was the hero of scientific observations in a study conducted during the 1960s. Water is the source of every form of life. In the course of evolutionary history, amphibians emerged from the ocean and transformed into mammals. Millions of years later, the primordial whales from which dolphins are descended returned to the sea as mammals equipped with sonar telecommunication and a humansized brain.
The iconography of Mark Yasenchak's Underwater Love can also be regarded as a dolphinlike reminiscence of the creative sexuality of intelligent living beings. Like maritime mammals, his performers too exploit the reduced gravity of the aqueous medium to expand the scope of their love play into all dimensions of space. The artist's interest is above all devoted to the beauty of the sexual act under the conditions of a habitat which is alien to human beings. He shoots unique and fascinating underwater images which also set new artistic standards in relation to their elementary aesthetic. Refracted light gives an otherworldly glow to the underwater bodies so that the observer cannot (and will not) tear himself away from the immediacy of this erotic behavior. We've never seen sex like this before. It's an astonishing ritual of copulation that directly recalls the evolutionary origins which are anchored in our collective biological memory.
Do we really still require artistic excuses for
eroticism: for example, ancient fabulous
creatures of the sea like the sirens, nereids, naiads and tritons who populate Arnold Böcklin's symbolist world of images? Mark Yasenchak's remarkable selection of erotic underwater photographs confronts the observer's gaze without detours, with manifest sex and irresistible erotic attraction. Though the vision may be initially disconcerting, it's also undeniably breathtaking.