Her mind swims at a depth most would drown in

Elisa Maenhout

2018 - Ongoing

Belgium; Egypt; California, United States; Florida City, Florida, United States; City of London, England, United Kingdom

The mermaid, an ancient phenomenon and one of the most iconic creatures. The first stories date back to antiquity, but are mostly known from when sailors thought they saw creatures in the waves. What interests me as a photographer is why these fictitious women with their typical fishtail still continue to intrigue people today.

My project focuses on people who identify themselves with these mythical creatures. Being a mermaid is an expression of authenticity for them. Half human, half fish, a strong woman that radiates power, beauty and self-confidence. In a playful way it tells us something about today's society. Their story is a tale of self-fulfillment, autonomy and liberty. It is a statement that incorporates the right to express oneself and to communicate with the world in a free and limitless way. All conformity and expectations are pushed aside. Mermaids and mermen experience their passion in a tight community where it’s not the differences but the similarities that prevail. The love for beauty, fantasy and the underwater world connects them. With my camera I explore their world and record their ways.

With my pictures I try to stimulate the imagination of the spectator and to show the invisible line between fiction and reality. I photograph the mermaid community above as well as under water. The underwater images bring the fairytale to life, it recreates reality as a dream world. There, the line drawn between documentary photography and photography where the artist is staging the subject, grows thin. The question is asked whether the scene depicted on the photograph is real or not. What is to be believed?

Framed between the surface and the bottom, between dream and reality, the mermaids move in a world of their own where the light behaves differently and where gravity seems an illusion. The contrast with the pictures taken above the water is substantial but gives us the necessary reality check. It makes us aware of that difference.

I approach the mermaids with admiration, respect and an open mind.

As a master student in the art of photography (School Of Arts, KASK, Belgium) I aim to graduate with this specific project.

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