One of the fashion industry’s renowned fashion photographers, Hugh Arnold has come a long way. While spending some time in what he refers to as a ‘magical island’, Ibiza, Arnold contemplated his career and decided to take a new direction with his photography- as an artist. He gave up his commercial photography career in exchange for what he desired for years, the liberty of expressing himself through his photographs. Inspired by the sea and the sea world, 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. The result? Agua Nacida. 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. Each one of Arnold’s photograph has it’s own interpretation, from representing his own life experiences to describing a woman’s story, all while maintaining a clean and innocent aesthetic. I feel that as a woman, we can all relate to one photo or the other from his collection. He has also published a book that’s available for purchase.
I spent some time chatting with Hugh when he was in Chicago for his exhibition. His character vibrant and ever so exciting, leaving you inspired.. and his stories, equally engaging and captivating. I thought you might enjoy a few of his thoughts just as much as I did. Here’s Hugh Arnold:
After years of fashion photography, what influenced your decision to go the artistic route?
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!
Your subjects are mainly females. Any reason why?
Well actually I had for an instant thought of men for these projects but just on an aesthetic level and for what I wanted to convey ,I think you will agree ,women fitted the bill more perfectly! However my next project will take on a totally different feel and energy and men will be part of that equation!
I’ve noticed that most of your subjects are expressing a sense of freedom, under water. What is freedom to you?
Freedom is truth, is everything. The sea liberates us so its only natural that my pictures express this, I suppose it must be an extension of something innate inside myself. I hate constraints!
There are other shots of the models in foetal positions. Is that meant to be or by accident?
Well I hope so, as the story of my book is a subliminal evolution from conception to womanhood, this is to remind people where they came from and spent the first nine months of their lives!
How long did this project take you to complete?
Its extraordinary how much is /was involved and once one chapter of the journey was closed a new one would open. From the initial idea, training to dive, finding locations , the right girls , shooting, editing and preparing all the elements of the book and exhibition etc, it has taken the best part of 22 months
Will water be the main element you use for future projects? What’s your relationship with water?
Most definitely .What I have covered is an early slice of life, life has endless possibilities ,so there is much more to come.
I can’t go more than two days without swimming, its the place I feel at home and where I return to myself.
For more on Hugh Arnold, visit his website: http://hugharnold.com