Photographer Recreates Dutch Baroque Style with Underwater Still Life Photos

While we have seen quite a bit of stunning underwater imagery, this is something that we haven’t seen before. Photographer Alexander James recreates classic Vanitas style with his unique photography technique:

James has spent three decades perfecting his style. His work draws its inspiration from the paintings of masters of the Dutch Baroque style. Black is the quintessential color that dominates his canvas. The skull represents death, while the butterflies and the flowers represent life and rebirth. The colors are deep and the haunting; the shadows are a reflection of the morbid nature of his theme.

Underwater film photography

James setting up the shot

The fascinating effects are a result of the ripples in the water. Colors are saturated and the final image looks almost unreal.

“Water enables me to treat each canvas as if it was painted in a million colors simultaneously. Then I can take a painter’s knife and I can move those oils around. That’s enough to keep me occupied for a lifetime.”

As James himself puts it,

“This is something you have never seen before. When have you ever seen a photograph, a documentary piece of film that looks like it was painted? That doesn’t look underwater, looks like sculpture. It doesn’t look like anything that it should.”

James’ work cannot be simply termed as photography. It erodes the boundaries of painting, sculpture and photography, creating a unique blend of visual art form.

underwater photography inspired by painting

What’s his inspiration?

James explains that vanity and the meaningless of it all remains as important now as it was 300 years ago. Humanity faces its ultimate challenge and that challenge revolves around the most important resource that we have—water. He believes that in the future, wars will be fought over it and whole civilizations will relocate depending on access to it. He feels that at the end of the day, the importance of living a life that is of some value is as relevant today as it was before. James’ work, as such, is not about the stark reality of death but the celebration of life.

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One Comment

  1. I love these artistic, painterly effects. I try to achieve similar effects but my technique is to take selected photos from my traditional DSLR camera, email them to myself, open and store them on my iPhone and then experiment and manipulate them on iPhone apps, mainly Snapseed.

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