The West

Waiting in Silence , Ian and Erick Regnard 's entry in the IPA 2010 Special Photographer of the Year  Award in New York.
"Waiting in Silence", Ian and Erick Regnard 's entry in the IPA 2010 Special Photographer of the Year Award in New York.

Twins Ian and Erick Regnard have spent the greater part of the past two decades photographing in and around water.

Born in Mauritius but relocating to Perth as teenagers, the pair started out their photographic careers as surf photographers and have maintained a successful balance of commercial and "art" photography ever since.

But they set themselves their biggest challenge to date when taking the photographs for their latest exhibition. The Regnards travelled to Niue, a Pacific Island east of Tonga, to create a series of black-and-white nudes photographed underwater using a large-format Polaroid which needed 15kg of casing to make it sink through Niue's crystal-clear waters.

"With underwater photography it's very hard to focus manually, so the camera must be on autofocus and the camera 'finds' the subject and takes the photo," Ian Regnard explains. "We didn't really realise how hard this project was going to be."

Erick Regnard had heard about Niue in his role as a diving instructor. Off Niue you can see up to 100m underwater because the limestone rock filters rainwater down to the bottom of the ocean, resulting in no visible sediment.

"We thought it would be fantastic to shoot underwater there, to take photos of the whales we were told swam there, using a big-format camera," his brother explains.

"We went to test the camera in Tahiti and took some shots of a model with stingrays but when we got to Niue there were no whales because the current was too warm."

It was then they decided to revisit the idea of a model swimming nude underwater. Crucial to the end result was finding someone willing to work underwater on long-shoot days.

"It was hard to find the right person," Regnard admits.

"It's not just a matter of finding a girl willing to be photographed naked, of course. She had to be a strong swimmer. But - and this is going to sound weird - the model's breasts couldn't be too big because underwater they sort of float upwards. At one stage we had Gisele Bundchen expressing interest in shooting with us but thank God she was busy at the time we decided to shoot because we didn't want to have to say to this famous supermodel 'Sorry, we'd love to use you but your breasts are too big'."

Regnard laughs as he says this but the shoot was a serious effort with only one shot per hour possible during eight-hour shoots.

"You have to dive down, take the shot, go back to the boat, open the housing, take the film out, reload and go back into the water," Regnard says of the intense shoot process.

"I was on the boat, Erick would pass me the camera, I would dry it, load it and pass it back to him to take the next shot. Just to lift the camera out of the water takes quite a bit of effort."

The West Australian

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