Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.
OAKLAND, Calif. — For the non-aquaphobes among us, life underwater can be incredibly peaceful and relaxing. Sound often feels denser and calmer, and the experience of buoyancy literally takes the weight off our shoulders and puts us in a difference state of mind. It’s not an accident that astronauts conduct extensive training in the water. San Francisco-based photographer Erena Shimoda, who takes surreal, dream-like portraits of individuals underwater, understands the healing power of water in her art.
A scuba driver by training, Shimoda began with fish photos but soon moved to people. Some of her popular works include a series of portraits of people of Japanese descent re-enacting stories from Japanese culture.
Her most recent project, Underwater Healer, focuses on cancer survivors. After raising $10,000 on Indiegogo, she has been traveling up and down the West Coast to photograph women who have participated in the American Cancer Society’s Look Good Feel Better project.
“Most of clients for underwater portrait gain their confidence and enjoy the freedom of space in the water,” she noted in an interview with Hyperallergic. “I thought I could connect cancer survivors (they have to be 100% ok to be in the chlorine water) and my creative UW portrait session. I truly believe that the water heals their mind and spirit.”
Her work comes from her own deep understanding of pain and healing. “I was in a car accident 12 years ago and I lost my father, almost lost my vision, and my shoulder. To overcome the injury and the tragedy, I wanted to help people who are going through physical and emotional pain in their lives,” she says.
In a recent post by Bernadette Leno on I Had Cancer, Leno explains that the portraits helped her find her strength after the ordeals of chemotherapy:
I traveled to San Francisco for the session, and as the photos were being taken, I wasn’t sure how they would turn out or even if any would be worth using. But when Erena showed me afterward, I was surprised. Not surprised at her talent, as she is clearly extremely talented, but at how great the session translated into these amazing photos and how I felt as I was looking back at them. After having so many surgeries and needle pokes, the session with Erena made me realize that I am a beautiful, strong woman — and that was an incredible realization.
Shimoda continues to raise money and welcomes support on her website. As of press date, she has worked with the six women who appear on this post and is heading to Seattle to continue the project.
Poussin and the Dance is a valiant attempt to break into Poussin’s staunchly academic oeuvre and provide a relatable point of entry, highlighting the exciting elements of revelry and movement despite impenetrable and unemotional rendering.
Anarchist illustrator N.O. Bonzo produces decentralized media in a highly bureaucratic cultural landscape. Their illustrations, murals, and literature emerge in unexpected places, from the streets of Portland, Oregon, to the far ends of Reddit and Twitter, addressing relations of labor and identity in the workplace and on the streets. Growth and care are central themes…
This exhibition explores how images of the human body were used to provoke profound physical and emotional responses in viewers from the 15th through 18th centuries.
With scavenged materials, Amanda Maciel Antunes constructs a motherland.
Where are the directors taking the stage to acknowledge workers’ demands today?
The collaborative handmade paper- and printmaking center at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts publishes new works by Liz Collins and Sarah McEneaney.
There is a debate whether the memory of Little Syria should be seized upon to tell truthful and positive stories about Arabs in the US, or whether any conflation between its history and contemporary politics is inappropriate.
The profile includes works by Egon Schiele, Amedeo Modigliani, Peter Paul Rubens, and a prehistoric Venus of Willendorf figurine.
These horrifying dolls definitely won’t murder you in your sleep.