Underwater beauty: A story by Hugh Arnold

I’ve had the pleasure to sit down one evening and chat with one of the fashion industry’s most renowned fashion photographers, Hugh Arnold. Inspiring to say the least, Arnold was in Chicago for his exhibit Agua Nacida, where he publicly showcased his creative work as well as his transition from a commercial photographer to an artist. Hugh took me on a journey to Ibiza where I spent my last summer. His description of the sea, it’s elements, the smell of the water and how the ocean felt on your body while skinny dipping so vivid that you felt a shiver simply listening to him share his project’s story. A captivating storyteller and a very creative and imaginative artist… Hugh has finally unleashed the artists within him and gave up his work as a commercial photographer.

Agua Nacida

Agua Nacida


Agua Nacida


Inspired by the magic of the sea and the world beneath it, Hugh decided that he would work with the most familiar subject throughout his career- women. But rather that shoot them for a fashion or beauty project, provide them with a form of ‘rebirth’ through his underwater photography. He named his project Agua Nacida, a spanish description inspired by his Argentinian wife. His project focuses on the woman’s life cycle in the nude, starting with a foetal position and graduating to womanhood, by swimming against tuna fish. A woman can easily relate to at least one of Arnold’s photographs as it it showcases own interpretation. The clean and crisp aesthetic makes his photograph perfect and refreshing in any home but for those who can not afford his work, he’s published a coffee table book, over-flowing with beauty, serenity and grace.

Here’s a quick chat I’ve had with Hugh that I’d like to share, enjoy :

Why did you suddenly decide to give up your commercial photography career in exchange for artistry?
No matter what we do in life , there is always an element of compromise whether it is in our dealings with other people, in our jobs, wherever. An artist doesn’t compromise. Nothing should get in the way of his point of view and all considerations aside this should be a totally fulfilling route. I think with any artist there comes a time when the urge to express oneself in a pure uncontrived and unhindered way becomes too strong to ignore. I felt as a person that I deserved after years of thinking of others around me to start to think of myself , to be selfish but in a noble way. I was v fortunate that my children and above all my wife was not only supportive but understood and encouraged me!

Very appropriate, moving on from your subjects, what do you think of Jelly fish & the bubbles in your photos? 

Visually I love the translucency of jellyfish, I find the light shining through them fascinating and of course the ghost like way in which they move, but at a distance of course!!

The bubbles we see essentially are life, the very vehicle through which we live and of course in water it is actually visible in 3D


Project production


Agua Nacida production


How ticklish was it to shoot with Tuna Fish? What was the experience like?
Incredible they created a huge vortex which if you are not careful can suck you down with them, they are so enormous ( the size of a cow) its hard to imagine swimming with them but although they come near they rarely touch, although the girls, who couldn’t see them were freaked out when they occasionally brushed by!

Loving the deeper shades of blue with your work, was it difficult shooting in deep sea water?
Well actually I prefer to shoot in relatively shallow water from a visual point of view, although it appears much deeper, but there is a huge mystery in the big deep blue ocean. My assistant in Fiji who was a seasoned diver refused to come in if she couldn’t see the bottom. Well she does come from the shark infested waters of Australia so perhaps I can understand!


What was your goal for this project and what were you trying to convey to your audience?
I was thrilled when on the opening night of my exhibition, members of the audience would each tell me how genuinely moved they were by the photos. If you operate at a pure, high level- the work should speak , no pretentious gimmicks, or  trying to please, just pure honesty, that’s what a true artist should convey. I have lived with these images every day for the past 12-18 months and I still enjoy looking at them and finding something new. Each picture gives a different message and allows us to question that part of our life. In a way its like receiving a tarot card, you can give it your own twist!


For more on Hugh Arnold – Agua Nacida, visit his website: http://hugharnold.com


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