Nelson underwater photographer's exhibition features women as goddesses

Photos from Jose G. Cano's new underwater photography exhibition "Aqua Ingravitas" at Parkers Gallery in Nelson.
Jose G. Cano

Photos from Jose G. Cano's new underwater photography exhibition "Aqua Ingravitas" at Parkers Gallery in Nelson.

For Nelson photographer Jose G Cano, women are goddesses, and the best way to photograph them is under water. 

He often spends five hours in a day in the custom-made pool at his house in Nelson, with scuba diving gear and a camera in a big waterproof case.

The women he works with are often professional dancers or athletes, because they have the endurance to spend hours moving under water.

Fine art underwater photographer Jose G Cano at work in his Nelson Studio.
BRADEN FASTIER

Fine art underwater photographer Jose G Cano at work in his Nelson Studio.

The models have to relax and let the air go out of their lungs, before immersing themselves in the darkness. 

When they open their eyes, they can't see Cano, or the safety diver. All they see is darkness.

"They don't touch the ground, because it's three-metres deep," Cano said.

Photos from Jose G. Cano's new underwater photography exhibition "Aqua Ingravitas" at Parkers Gallery in Nelson.
Jose G. Cano

Photos from Jose G. Cano's new underwater photography exhibition "Aqua Ingravitas" at Parkers Gallery in Nelson.

"They have to hold their breath, but not too much, because you don't want people looking like chipmunks."

Cano said most women he's worked with said it was the "hardest thing they've ever done".

He said he sometimes cries when he sees the end result because of the magic that underwater photography brings to the image. 

Photos from Jose G. Cano's new underwater photography exhibition "Aqua Ingravitas" at Parkers Gallery in Nelson.
Jose G. Cano

Photos from Jose G. Cano's new underwater photography exhibition "Aqua Ingravitas" at Parkers Gallery in Nelson.

Cano's custom made plastic pool is 3-metres deep, 7-metres long and 5-metres wide, filled with chemical-free water to keep it as clear as possible.

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He said underwater photography in a pool isn't a widespread way of photography, and as far as he knew he was the only person in New Zealand with a underwater photography studio at home.

"There's no books on the subject, no internet articles, you have to invent everything."

For a year, Cano has worked on his upcoming exhibition "Aqua Ingravitas" at Parker Gallery in Nelson. 

Every week, he spent most of one or two days under water.

He said photographing under water was very challenging physically.

"Sometimes I lose one kilo in one photo shoot.

"Five hours in a pool, seven or eight degrees difference [in temperature], moving to balance yourself, it's very consuming."

Because he couldn't communicate with the model once she's under water, he never really knew what the photo shoot was going to be like.

"It has such a beautiful element of serendipity."

Cano said he's photographed 12 different dancers and accumulated thousands of photographs.

From the best 220 photographs, he had to chose 22 to form his exhibition.

Cano said he was inspired by historical classical art of naked women to show women as the goddesses they are in "Aqua Ingravitas", instead of the sexualised images of women nowadays.

"It's so natural, so beautiful, it's so normal to see all these [naked women on] classical paintings and it's not sexualised."

He said his Catholic upbringing in Spain influenced him for this exhibition, together with the visuals of Baroque churches "full of  angels and saints, of madonnas and goddesses, the Renaissance bodies, telling mythical stories of humanity".

Cano said he hoped a book would be created after the exhibition. 

Aqua Ingravitas is on at Parker Gallery, 90 Achilles Ave, from October 13 to November 3, with an opening night on October 13 at 5:30pm.

There will be a silent auction with the proceeds of one large photograph going to the Nelson Women's Refuge. 

 - Stuff

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