The Amazing Grace of Underwater Portraits | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian
(Henrik Sorensen / Getty Images)

The Amazing Grace of Underwater Portraits

Photographer Henrik Sorensen takes a fluid approach to the body in motion

Buoyant Underwater Photography

Henrik Sorensen photographs
(Henrik Sorensen / Getty Images)

Henrik Sorensen specializes in underwater photography, but he doesn’t snap pictures of fish. He slips into pools with fully clothed dancers, soccer players, skateboarders and others to make portraits of people in a kind of suspended animation. Buoyancy allows for gravity-defying poses, while the water’s resistance, seen as ripples and bubbles, renders movement itself visible—a nifty feat for a “still” photo. The result feels timeless. “Everything is slow motion,” says Sorensen, who lives in Copenhagen. To limit excess bubbles that might spoil a scene, he doesn’t use a diving tank but instead holds his breath, like his subjects. Still, a little turbulence, he says, is “like a gift for the picture.”

Sorensen began his career as a documentary photographer, but left the field for commercial work that allowed him to pursue his passion for capturing bodies in motion. When a dancer suggested he try shooting his subjects underwater, he was hesitant at first, but realized immediately while submerged with his camera that he had found his calling. “I just felt at home down there, visually,” he says. “It’s very graceful, and I love that.”

This photo was taken in 2012 as part of a series called “Grace.”

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus