Nelson photographer Jose Cano turns models into mermaids

by Tim Cuff / 24 December, 2017

Underwater World

As Jose Cano pondered the difficulties of photographing fleet-footed dancers in his studio, he had an inspired idea. How would it be to shoot them underwater? “One is always limited by gravity and time trying to catch that moment,” he says.

The Spanish-born artist, who’s lived in Nelson since 2008, asked a local engineer to build a small test tank he could fill with water. “He didn’t understand until I said, ‘It’s to put mermaids in!’”

In March, less than a year after that first splash of inspiration, Cano opened a permanent 7m by 4m subterranean studio beneath a new barn on his rural property on the outskirts of town. He took to the tank for the first time to shoot a model wearing a heavy stainless-steel dress made for the World of WearableArt show. “I had to be down [at the bottom of the tank] all the time, pushing her up.”

Spanish-born artist Jose Cano in his underwater photography tank, during a shoot with model Alesha Pyers.

When you’re working underwater, you never know what’s going to happen, says Cano, whose camera is protected by a waterproof housing. “You are limited in how you can move, and your model can only go down and pose at three metres for maybe 30 seconds. Fabric can go one way, hair the other… If you can catch that, it’s pure serendipity.”

The tank is filled with rainwater from the roof, which is then fed through three levels of filtration and warmed to a tropical 28°. After a six-hour shoot, the photographer, his model and his helper, Emma Porteous, are all physically drained. “I will lose a kilo. Very often after a shoot we go directly to the pizzeria!” But the challenges of shooting underwater have made him fall in love with photography all over again.

“People don’t know if they can sink and be comfortable in the water,” says Cano, who has an exhibition of work, Aqua Ingravitas, at Nelson’s Parker Gallery until November 3. “We had a dive master who couldn’t sink, and wearing a dress she panicked. What I hear most from the models is, ‘I didn’t know it would be so hard.’” 

This was published in the November 2017 issue of North & South.

 

Latest

How to know if you are being sexually harassed at work
89757 2018-04-23 00:00:00Z Social issues

How to know if you are being sexually harassed at …

by The Listener

The Employment Relations Act is very clear about what constitutes sexual harassment in New Zealand.

Read more
Some corner of an English field
89918 2018-04-22 00:00:00Z History

Some corner of an English field

by Pamela Wade

Pamela Wade visits a village in rural England and finds the war-time deaths of her uncle and his two Kiwi-airmen mates have not been forgotten.

Read more
The brain researcher who was diagnosed with a brain tumour
89704 2018-04-22 00:00:00Z Profiles

The brain researcher who was diagnosed with a brai…

by Clare de Lore

Few people could be better suited than Louise Nicholson to deal with a brain tumour diagnosis.

Read more
Discovering the majesty and fragility of New Zealand kauri
88483 2018-04-22 00:00:00Z Environment

Discovering the majesty and fragility of New Zeala…

by Josie Stanford

A twilight tour in Waipoua Forest highlights the majesty, and the fragility, of our mighty kauri.

Read more
Sweet Country – movie review
89842 2018-04-22 00:00:00Z Movies

Sweet Country – movie review

by Peter Calder

An Australian western with Sam Neill is a searing masterpiece.

Read more
The role that diet plays in causing gout is smaller than people think
89404 2018-04-22 00:00:00Z Health

The role that diet plays in causing gout is smalle…

by Nicky Pellegrino

It's often said that diet is the most important cause of gout, but for most people changing it won't lower uric acid levels enough to stop the pain.

Read more
15 and snapping the stars: The new generation of music media
88446 2018-04-21 00:00:00Z Music

15 and snapping the stars: The new generation of m…

by Sharon Stephenson

Wellington teenager McKenzie Jennings-Gruar is part of a new-generation media pack on the music festival circuit.

Read more
Moa Please! Give Anika Moa a prime-time spot on TV right now
89886 2018-04-21 00:00:00Z Television

Moa Please! Give Anika Moa a prime-time spot on TV…

by Diana Wichtel

It’s time the tornado of Seven Sharp and Anika Moa Unleashed was set free on prime time.

Read more