The Underwater Project – The Australian News feature

The Australian News feature on The Underwater Project, May 2011. Produced by Craig Fordham.

Article by Fred Paule.

A SUNNY autumn Sunday at Maroubra Beach, Sydney. One-metre waves are churning up murky clouds of sand, but between sets the water is mostly clear and blue-green.

Photographer Mark Tipple, 29, sees a wave approaching and slides under the surface, ready to capture a moment of drama. He uses the wave’s momentum to rush shoreward with his water-housed Canon 7D as a swimmer dives toward him under the foam. Sometimes these swimmers are his mates, other times they are strangers oblivious to the imagery he is hoping to catch.

He holds down the shutter button and reels off eight frames a second. “Wave knowledge is fairly crucial to capturing the subtle changes to body posture and expression that will best tell the story, or just look cool,” he says. Invariably, he emerges from each shoot with a few keepers for a collection he has been working on for the past 18 months called The Underwater Project.

Tipple, from the Sydney beachside suburb of Bronte, knows he isn’t the first person to notice the dramatic potential of people floating between a darkly intimidating wave and a soft sandy ocean floor – Australians Trent Parke and Narelle Autio and Americans Brian Bielmann and Clark Little are four photographers who have inspired him – but he does think he’s taking the art in a new direction. “I can see a lot of similarity with Trent and Narelle. Their shots kind of imply emotion, which is not a good or bad thing, whereas I try to be true to the subject,” he says. “And I want to give the ocean a human face. It’s a happy, playful swim at the beach, but the ocean has a mood.”

Tipple has lived and worked around the ocean in Queensland, South Australia and NSW for most of his life, and hopes his pictures convey a political message about the future of our oceans. “The series is trying to go full circle. We’re trying to show the ocean has a power and a domination over us, whereas in reality we’re actually causing the demise of the ocean through our practices.”

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