WITH their dreamy, vivid disposition and polished finish, you could be forgiven for thinking these photographs were the result of many painstaking hours of work by a team of photographers and lighting assistants.
In reality, the photos of Australian Olympic butterfly and freestyle swimmer Alicia Coutts were taken in a 20-minute gap before her training at the Australian Institute of Sport by a single snapper; Canberra photographer Andrew Campbell.
Using high-power flash guns to cut out background light, Campbell shot Coutts from behind an observation window below the pool deck.
“We originally tried with me underwater, too, but that didn’t really work out, and I thought shooting from behind the glass would give the photos a more distorted effect,” he said.
The idea to shoot underwater came after Campbell shot Coutts for a Sydney magazine.
“We were doing this really simple photo and later an idea of my own came to mind and I asked her if she ever wanted to try something else, to let me know when she was next in Canberra,” he said.
“She ended up emailing me a few weeks later and we went from there. This shoot wasn’t for anything – I just wanted to try it and I thought Alicia would be interested, as she could use the shots.”
Campbell’s aim was to create a surreal mood, asking Coutts to “channel a dancer”.
“I’d seen some other fashion photos taken underwater and I loved the way the water made the dresses float,” he said.
“Being underwater makes things easier as you’re not bound by gravity. The interplay between your own gravity and buoyancy is interesting – it takes the element of normality and gravity out of the whole thing and it just becomes a fun exercise of movement.”
Campbell says Coutts “had great fun” posing for the shoot, and was given styling advice by her friend and fellow Olympic swimmer Sally Foster (200m breast stroke).
Coutts donned a vintage 1970s dress for the shoot, from Lyneham store April’s Caravan. Campbell says the good-natured owner of the store often lent him outfits for shoots, and she didn’t even mind that this one would be soaked in chlorine.
“By the time I returned it, it was all dry again, so I think she was able to dry clean it out,” he said.