Women's History Month is a time to reflect on the women who have helped shape history, culture, and the women's liberation movement. It's also an opportunity to reflect on the women in our everyday lives who make a difference in our world.
To wrap up Women's History Month we're doing a deep dive on a few of our female ambassadors; to highlight and reflect on the work they do in making the underwater photography world a more creative and equitable space.
This year's Women's History Month theme is "Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories." All of the women featured below tell a story through their underwater photography. Meaghan Ogilvie shares the story of environmental protection, Charlotte Borie's work tells the story of myth and dreams, Alison Bounce shares the story of maternity, birth, and family and teaches others how to tell their stories too, and Erena Shimoda shares the story of triumph over trauma by healing underwater.
"I learned the importance of healthy marine ecosystems and the possible opportunities my career as an underwater photographer could bring."
"When I began underwater photography, I first came across the images of Zena Holloway. She is a pioneer and has always remained one of my favourite female icons not only because her work is beautiful, but because she has sustained a long career. Over the years, I've learned that success has a lot to do with stamina and re-inventing yourself. It takes intelligence, ambition and hard work to succeed and Zena demonstrates this. She continues to evolve now as a bio-designer and material innovator growing sustainable sculpture and fashion from grass root. She's incredibly inspiring!
"In 2014, I won an Australian underwater photography competition with one of the first underwater images I had created. The prize was a scuba diving trip to Palau. I didn't know very much about Palau at the time, but once I got there I realized how special the opportunity was. It was a dream come true! I couldn't believe the abundance of marine life we were diving in. From that experience, I learned the importance of healthy marine ecosystems and the possible opportunities my career as an underwater photographer could bring."
In 2022 Meaghan won the Voice of the Ocean Fashion Award. This April she will be traveling to Raja Ampat aboard the Sea Safari Cruise Liveaboard as her prize. Learn more about Meaghan.
"When this kind of magic occurs, I'm over the moon!"
"This picture, which I shot recently in the Bali Sea, is my absolute favourite of the moment. Firstly, because it was taken in the ocean and this kind of photoshoot is always exhilarating. Secondly, because it is a very evocative image which really tells a story. And finally, because... it wasn't planned at all!
"Of course, before diving, we had this vague idea of walking or dancing on the sea bed. But this particular pose, where the model seems to be pulling the boat, is almost accidental! The truth is that — in order to achieve the pose we loosely had in mind — she was supposed to use this rope to get down (as freedivers do), then let it go and start walking. The rope wasn't part of our scenario at all. It was just a tool.
"The point is that I always shoot what happens before and after the expected pose, because something incredibly beautiful can happen at any time. And it happened! I have to say, when this kind of magic occurs, I'm over the moon!"
Charlotte Bories is a French underwater photographer now living in Bali. She specializes in fine art, fashion, and fantasy and gains her inspiration from art history, myths and folktales. Charlotte incorporates digital media, underwater photography, and other element to help tell her stories. Learn more about Charlotte.
"Every woman can have an artist's soul in my eyes."
"In my approach, water is like the cradle of life. I began photographing underwater by admiring the ease of a baby underwater. It is quite natural that I have turned my work towards birth and maternity.
"This year, life brought me the most beautiful gift: becoming a mother. So if I were to share the image of 2023 with you, it would be that of Zita, 10 months, and her mum Lucie. They both live on a catamaran with Jonathan, the dad and Orion, the big brother. My boyfriend and I spent two weeks with them on the boat. It was in January, during an aquatic photo and video course in Guadeloupe.
"Zita knew how to swim even before she could walk. It was incredible to be able to join her in her learning. Lucie let me guide them during the whole stay in order to perfect the free immersion. This picture is from the last day. The first time Zita asked to go underwater on her own and Lucie let her float and swim to the surface independently. It was a very powerful moment. When Zita came up, she clapped and laughed a lot. Women are definitely really strong together. I am grateful for this moment of life."
Alison Bounce is a French underwater photographer who not only specializes in underwater portraiture but also teaches workshops on underwater photography techniques. In 2021 she authored a book about underwater photography called Les Secrets du Portrait Underwater and says the most spectacular place underwater photography has taken her is Antarctica. Learn more about Alison.
"[Women] all have a creative side of their own. This is what defines an artist for me. To create with what you have. Based on this premise, every woman can have an artist's soul in my eyes. Water reveals them. Finally, an important dimension: we are a team. A trio: my muse, the water, and me. Creating together is a real pleasure. I make it a point of honour to connect them with the element so that they and the water become one. There is a certain return to the primary state. The very origin of the creation of all living things. The humility comes out to provoke a kind of reset of the sometimes overactive life that we can have. It is at this point that the liberation begins."
"[My] dream is to reach out to people all over the world and help transform their mind and spirit with underwater portrait photography."
Born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, Erena always had an affinity for the underwater world, and became a certified scuba Divemaster. She survived a traumatic car accident in which she lost her father and suffered severe injuries. As a part of her healing process, she volunteered at the American Cancer Society’s Look Good Feel Better program, where patients support each other and learn about makeup and wigs. Seeing cancer survivors marvel at their transformations deeply affected Erena. She combined her interest in underwater photography with recovery. Her goals: to help cancer survivors experience the transformative effects of water immersion, and to encourage survivors to see themselves as beautiful through portraits.
In July 2013, Erena spearheaded the successful Underwater Healer - About Face fundraising campaign with IHadCancer.com. All funds raised benefited cancer survivors -- 60% covered costs to provide 13 portrait sessions at no cost to the survivors and 40% was donated to IHadCancer.com.
"I read about releasing trauma and pain through underwater submersion & found an article that highlighted Erena’s healing work so I wanted to also experience some of this water healing & create something meaningful with my pain." - Manu (they/them), Domestic Violence + Child Abuse Survivor. // Erena Shimoda is an underwater portrait photographer and advocate based in San Fransisco. Currently, Erena is incorporating underwater videography into her repertoire and is enjoying the learning and growth process. Learn more about Erena.
Ever since, Erena donates her time to work with survivors of cancer, domestic violence, people with PTSD and physical disabilities. Her powerful and transformative Underwater Portrait Sessions help survivors rediscover their beauty, regain their confidence and self-esteem, and provide an experience of transcendence.
The project gives survivors confidence as well as the courage to face new challenges. They were able to feel free and let things go - in the unique way that being underwater provides. These sessions help participants gain self-esteem and improve their self-images, almost serving as unofficial therapy sessions.
Meaghan Ogilvie is a Canadian visual artist and freelance photographer. After graduating from a commercial photography program in Toronto, Meaghan redirected her path and pursued a career in the fine arts gaining international recognition for her underwater images. Her passion and advocacy for water became her focus after winning an award to travel to Palau and dive in one of the largest marine protected areas in the world. There, she witnessed the importance of protecting a thriving marine ecosystem. Read more...
Charlotte Bories is an award-winning French underwater photographer specializing in fine art, fashion, and fantasy images. She currently resides in Bali where she has harnesses the water as a powerful medium for her storytelling. A fierce freediver and scuba diver, Charlotte mixes her underwater photography with digital media to create her dreamy underwater aesthetic. Read more...
Alison Bounce was freediving in the Philippines when she saw a pregnant mother playing with her son in the water. It was a revelation. She returned to France and started developing her techniques and setting up a service combining photography with the underwater world. Now a specialist, Alison travels the world doing sub-aquatic shoots and teaching underwater photography. Read more...
Erena Shimoda is an underwater portrait photographer based in San Francisco. She was born in Tokyo, Japan, is certified as a scuba dive master, and uses her background in New Media and Fine Art to create unique compositions in different media. Erena pioneered her underwater transformative photography program after surviving a traumatic car accident in which she lost her father and severely injured her body and now uses her program and total immersion to help other survivors heal. Read more...