2022, the year I spent the majority of in or nearby the ocean, and we still have three months left to go. Earlier in the year, I came back to Koh Tao, went back to Surin to visit the Mokens (sea gypsies), went to the Maldives then Krabi. Spent a month in St. Leonards and even went swimming with seals in Ilfracombe, North Devon in England. But nowhere felt so much like home, so once again I found myself back on Koh Tao in July and stayed there with the cats for almost two months.
I transformed into a full fledged resident this time, staying in a house where the locals live, rented a scooter going around the steep and winding roads to get to beaches. It was a sense complete freedom to be able to roam wherever and whenever. The cool thing about this island, I feel, is that, like Bali, you don't choose Koh Tao, Koh Tao chooses you. As silly as it sounds, it's not as easy for people to cross over or have smooth journeys. This island has a small town sensibility, they operate in small circles where everyone knows everyone, they're kind and trusting. You can easily leave your doors unlocked, keys in your bike, and bags unattended on the beach. Life is simple.
There I got to snorkel almost everyday, just by swimming out from the shore mostly. But what I've been really into lately is night snorkeling (read about how to do this properly here). It's a whole other world. The darkness is thrilling, but it's also very calming. Sometimes I'd swim for two hours on just red or blue light because it is less disturbing to the fish. Then I had this idea - what if we treat a model underwater at night the same way we do fish?
I went to my underwater photographer friend, Elisabeth Lauwerys (Oceans Below), asking her if it would look alright because I've not seen any produced photoshoot of this idea before so it was hard to imagine what it would look like. Her answer was, "I don't know but let's try!"
Because it would be in the dark. All we knew was that it had to be a small team. I enlisted Nikki Lacey, one of the mermaids from the previous underwater shoot (she's actually a freediving champ and an instructor) to model a few pieces. And we needed a safety diver for her, Carolina Casas stepped in and also helped with lighting.
We were in between collections so there were new pieces to shoot. I just wanted to try something fun. So we just had a few Binkie Dresses and a Tulle Dress available. Nikki kept asking us what we expected from her. Both Liz and I were being vague, we told her to just go in and move and do your thing. I knew I wanted mostly videos because these dresses are heavily glittered and they would definitely look great when the light hits. Other than that? We would just have to wing it.
So here it is, getting a few friends wet just so I had someone to play with at the bottom of the ocean. We came back with some really good photos and videos, and even more plans for our next night shoot - because we now have better ideas of what we are looking for. It was collectively a brave effort. I have to thank these three, Elisabeth, Nikki, and Carolina for coming out in the middle of the night where no one was around and went in with me. It's been a successful experiment. Can't wait to do more with you guys!
Photographer/Videographer: Elisabeth Lauwerys
Model: Nikki Lacey
Stylist: Choltida Pekanan
Safety Diver: Carolina Casas
Music: “Superstar” by Sonic Youth
Check out the Binkie Dresses here