Behind the Scenes

The Beauty of Being Deaf: An Underwater Short Film About Disability Representation

The Beauty of Being Deaf: An Underwater Short Film About Disability Representation

Born in South Africa, Dylan Buyskes now calls New York home base but travels the United States filming projects for Onion Studios production company.

Although Dylan's work began exclusively as a topside medium, Dylan's first underwater photography gig began when Dylan was assisting another photographer with a synchronized swim photo shoot. From there Dylan's gone on to create meaningful underwater images and videos that convey the story of the human spirit.

"I've always been drawn to water... It helps me feel grounded and it's a very peaceful place underwater."

Recently Dylan created an underwater short film called The Beauty of Being Deaf in conjunction with Chella Man which will be featured in this year's Superfest Disability Film Festival

The Beauty of Being Deaf from Onion Studio on Vimeo.

The Making of The Beauty of Being Deaf

"Chella Man reached out to me in late 2020 and wanted to talk about doing an underwater video shoot of a piece he had written about The Beauty of Being Deaf. He is deaf and trans. We texted about the shoot then realized we lived 8 hours apart so we searched and rented a pool in NJ and went to shoot in January, happened to be a huge snow storm that day as well.

"It was Chella, two other models that were also deaf, myself, and my assistant Jesse, who is a dancer and has done a few shoots with me. We had two interpreters there as well.

"I shot all the footage and Chella edited the video together. I submitted the film to the Superfest, an accessibility film festival and was accepted. Our film will be shown on October 22, 2023 in San Francisco with three other films." - Dylan Buyskes

Director, Writer, Editor: Chella Man
Producers: Siying and Chella Man
Jewelry created by: Private Policy x Chella Man
Cast: Rayly Aquino, Raven Sutton, Chella Man
Videographer: Dylan Buyskes, Vivarium Imagery from Onion Studio
BTS Photographer: MaryV
Video Stills curated by: Chella Man
ASL Mentors: Douglas Ridloff, Oliver Stabbe
Interpreters: Jacinda Damas, Alisa Besher
Casting: Kate Antognini

What's Next?

All of Dylan's underwater work is people-based and Dylan hopes to continue providing a safe space for people to share their stories, traveling across the U.S. and meeting new underwater subjects along the way. Dylan recently shot footage in Eureka Springs, AR to a group of people who were new to underwater modeling. The experience was transformative for both Dylan and the models. 

"Seeing their reaction when they finally get to that comfortable space [underwater], which I call 'The Surrender.' They look relaxed and like they belong underwater."

For underwater footage Dylan uses the Nikon Z6 and Z7 II in an Ikelite Underwater Housing and a DS51 Strobe.

If you're in the San Francisco area, check out Dylan and Chella Man's film at the Superfest Disability Film Festival on October 22, 2023. 


dylan buyskes with ikelite underwater housing

Dylan Buyskes is a photographer and videographer both topside and underwater. "Being self taught in photography has allowed me the opportunity to create photos that have a distinct style. Making use of objects in and out of focus, the use of layering light, and changing the traditional perspective has created photography that will captivate the audience. Whether I am creating an environmental portrait, product photography or editorial, I am always looking to create an image that is surprising and captivating."  Follow more of Dylan's work on via Dylan's production website Onion Studios and keep up with Dylan's daily footage via Instagram @onionstudio.


Additional Reading

Behind the Scenes of a Short Film About Freediving

In the Water with the Nikon Z6 Full Frame Mirrorless Camera

Working With a Freediving Model in Open Water

5 Tips to Improve Your Underwater Portrait Pool Photography

Setting the Right Frame Rate and Shutter Speed for Your Underwater Footage [VIDEO] 

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5 Books for Underwater Photographers
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