I’ve been a professional photographer for twelve years. I’m a wedding photographer, and I love it. But I needed a more artistic outlet that was just for me, so in 2013 I took up underwater photography, which I’d done as a project at art school.
I use a mirrorless digital camera – a Sony A7R3 – with an underwater housing, which is perfect for the job.
I make otherworldly and ethereal underwater images that usually depict a single female. My aim is to try and capture how beautiful and peaceful the underwater world is. I also want to comment on the harm humans are doing to the ocean, particularly with plastic.
People say they find my work symbolic. There’s usually a journey involved, often towards the light of the sun reflected on the surface of the water. Some people see the journey from life to death; others say it represents for them some personal transition they’ve made.
Two years ago, I joined NOTANX, a free-diving club based in Brighton, where I’ve learnt to stay underwater for longer. I really enjoy dynamic apnea – I can swim around 90 metres underwater – but I’ve also learnt to hold my breath for much longer, up to three-and-a-half minutes. The current world record is nearly twelve minutes!
But the ethos of NOTANX isn’t about obsessing about figures and numbers. It’s about relaxation and enjoyment of the water. We train in swimming pools twice a week and go on excursions to more exciting locations.
The most difficult element of my art is finding models. It can be dangerous – they often need to swim underwater in clothing, which weighs you down, and it takes a long time for them to build up the trust in me that’s required.
Five years ago, I met Iara, running a jewellery stall in Formentera. I love that island: I’ve been going all my life, and I use it for a lot of my shoots. I told her what I did, and she said: ‘I’m a mermaid’. I arranged an underwater photoshoot with her the next day. It turns out it was true: she was a mermaid. I’ve been working with her regularly ever since.
Iara features in an image that I entered for the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize. I received an item in the post and to my horror it was wrapped in huge sheets of plastic. I did an underwater shoot with Iara, who made shapes with one of these sheets, representing the different land masses. The image is a composite of ten different shots, stitched together to make a map of the world. I’ve called it Single Use Planet, and, I’m delighted to say, it’s been shortlisted for the prize.
The worst thing about doing underwater shoots? The jellyfish. I’m on constant lookout for them, so my models don’t get stung. Jellyfish can completely scupper a photoshoot.
You can see more of Lexi’s work at the Sussex Art Fair, Brighton Racecourse, Oct 11th-13th.