Rhea Pappas has discovered an otherworldly place through photographing subjects underwater.
Sunlight bounces off lake settlement, creating fuzzy, aquatic sun flares.
When shot from below, the surface of the water looks like a liquid ceiling or mirror.
A peaceful, serene space emerges around a subject in the lake’s support and buoyancy.
Having previously shot underwater in filtered and controlled pools, she said she wanted to find a natural body of water for this project.
“It is a completely different look, and the images are different – expressing a very different point of view than I’ve had before,” Pappas said. “It can create this really incredible environment for reflections, dynamics, colors, shapes, and definitely abstraction.”
After searching for the perfect marine scene at Medicine Lake, Lake of the Isles, and all across the Twin Cities, the 31-year-old photographer finally found her setting in Square Lake, which provided a natural color palette and clarity that gave an almost cinematic, vintage look to the photos.
Aside from the physical elements, Pappas also tried to capture the reflection of a personal childhood nostalgia of water in the exhibition.
“The setting is supposed to be this nostalgic summer day when you’re a kid, where everything is pure and (you’re) having a good time,” Pappas said. “It really works well to continue that idea of childhood with the refection on top of the surface. It’s very emotionally abstract and literal at the same time.”
Entering the water for a shoot, she puts her D800 Nikon camera into an Aquatica AD800 Underwater Housing system and simply hopes, “please don’t flood.”
But Pappas has plenty of experience in this seemingly risky style of photography, as she’s been shooting underwater with her $8,000 gear since 2009.
Not everything about the exhibit was familiar, though. This project featured something different: the first inclusion of male bodies not in a romantic narrative.
“When I express myself, I am a woman and I come from that perspective,” she said. “In the past, I’ve had bodies of work that were about women empowerment and the womb. (Using both men and women this time) was a conscious choice, because the nostalgic idea of the summer sun is not one that only women experience.”
Moving away from that singular use of women, she said the idea of summer nostalgia within “Reflections” is universal.
“There are these moments that I think we can all relate to,” Pappas said. “My other photos are crystal clear and so beautiful, but this is just a different world.”