Ninety Seconds in the Blue Abyss


2019 / November

Wang Wenyen /photos courtesy of Wang Wenyen /tr. by Jonathan Lee

My journey into diving began during a photo project I did on Orchid Island in 2014. I wanted to follow the Tao people and capture photos of their culture of underwater fishing. To do so, I learned freediving, a form of diving which doesn’t require bulky tanks, but rather a good long breath. The project eventually came to an end and I had to depart Orchid Island, but the blue ocean stayed with me.

For photographers, the pursuit of perfect lighting is in the nature of our work, and the chance to explore the world drives us time and again to get up and get out. In my hunt for light and shadows, I am prepared to dive beneath drift ice and into the pitch-black depths of a −2°C night ocean. I am also ready to work up the courage to squeeze through a seafloor cavern just wide enough for one person.

I would have never thought that with just one breath I could plunge to an ocean floor 30 meters down, or that I could look into the eyes of a dolphin as we swam together underwater. I also never expected that the different properties of water and air would open up a whole new realm of photographic possibilities.

In every 90-second dive, time seems almost transient. But if you keep descending, you can turn what was limited into something limitless, and in this boundless ocean forever explore a world teeming with surprises.

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