The question of whether photography is considered an art medium or a more technical set of skills that can be acquired has been an ongoing debate since the days when the inventors were messing around with plates and chemicals. One might argue that it is a collection of principles and scientific ratios that, when combined with a knowledge of composition, can be learned. Others would say that while the mechanics can be accrued, photography requires additional elements of creative thought—choosing what to photograph, what “works,” and how to edit—which stems from a more innate instinct as opposed to one that is learned. Whatever your argument might be, I think that when you combine a fine artist of many mediums with a photographer, the outcome is pretty magical. And when said combination is taken underwater, you end up with work such as that of Elena Kalis.
Born in Moscow, Elena was trained as a traditional artist before trading frigid winters and hectic city life for serene beaches and sunshine. After she moved to the Bahamas, her newfound canvas of clear, tropical waters inspired a new series of portraits that combine conceptual storylines and portrayals of delicate and respectful relationships between humans and animals.
Using women and girls as her models, Elena’s images are poetic and magical, fringing on fantasy and imaginative storytelling. Imbedding her models into the underwater landscape and having them interact with marine life enriches the images with an engaging element, allowing the audience to connect with the work as an empathetic viewer—we can imagine ourselves in a world suspended with stingrays or hiding in mystical mangroves.
So whichever side of the art vs. science debate you might land on, it is clear that when a fine art background is added to underwater photography, the outcome is nothing short of spectacular.
To see more of Elena's work, check out her website www.elenakalisphoto.com.
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