The Breathtaking Underwater Portraits of 27MM
Enric Adrian Gener (better known as 27MM) is a fine art photographer from Menorca, Spain. After studying art and design in Barcelona, Gener worked as a freelance motionographer, working and travelling around the globe.
In 2008 he began to explore underwater photography and portraiture. The hobby blossomed into a profession and Gener now spends about half of the year in Menorca and the other half working and travelling to other seas around the world.
We caught up with the intrepid photographer to learn more about his craft and what drives him. You can find our interview below along with a selection of his stunning underwater photographs. If you’re interested in prints be sure to check out his online store.
What is your inspiration for the type of underwater photography that you do?
I don’t like the word inspiration. It’s something that comes from divinity and from the supernatural. My inspiration is to spend as much time as possible underwater. I always keep in mind this Picasso sentence: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”
What is behind the name 27MM?
Nothing special, it’s just a name. Something from me, like the day that I was born, the 27th, and something from photography as in the MM of the focal distance of the lens. Because I don’t like to link my name with this project, because my name represents me— and I can do several things, not just underwater photography. But it is clear that I haven’t achieved it.
Can you walk us through a typical shoot?
All is much simpler than the people imagine. I just go to the sea to have a nice day. Just choose a nice place, nice company, pick some water and something to eat, and that’s all. I always try to keep in mind that we have to enjoy our time in the sea and then we can take pictures. The reason to jump in the water must be to have fun. I don’t like to make photo sessions with models, and strangers. It looks too artificial. I like to capture the normal life around me. Sometimes you can play a little bit, but just a bit.
How many people are involved? Do you have an underwater lighting setup?
Just me and the model. The more simple the set up, that much easier to move to the sea. You don’t need to wait for a special day to take pictures, it’s easy enough to go to swim and dive with the camera at any time of the day. Even on working days, you can always take a 2 hour break. This is the reason why most of my photography is made in apnea.
Underwater lighting setup: Just a mask, a snorkel and the camera. I have a flash, and sometimes I use it, but is not my favorite option. I like the natural light and I don’t like how heavy the flash is. Especially if you have to walk more than half an hour to arrive to the sea. Keep it simple.
What are some challenges you face with underwater photography?
A lot. First of all for yourself. Down there it is cold, dark, wet, always moving and you can’t breath and even seeing is not easy. Then the weather, to have some kind of control of the forecast is complicated, because of the effects of the atmospheric conditions plus the sea conditions. All the parameters from the atmosphere combined with all the parameters of the sea.
And then the camera: it is darker than on surface, so you need a good aperture on your lens or an artificial light. The deeper you are, the colors disappear, only blue remains. The difference of the density between air and water makes a different focus because the water acts as a lens, and some other issues. It is almost impossible to pretend to control all of this. The better option is to jump to the sea with an open mind and adapt yourself to the conditions.
What fascinates you about water?
“The sea is everything. It covers seven-tenths of the terrestrial globe. Its breath is healthy and pure. It is a spacious wilderness where man is never alone, for he can feel life throbbing all around him. The sea is the environment for a prodigious, supernatural existence; it is nothing but movement and love; it is a living infinity. The sea is nature’s vast reserve. It was through the sea that the globe as it were began, and who knows if it will not end in the sea! Perfect peace abides there. The sea does not belong to despots. On its surface immoral rights can still be claimed, men can fight each other, devour each other, and carry out all the earth’s atrocities. But thirty feet below the surface their power ceases, their influence fades, their authority disappears. Independence is possible only here! Here I recognize no master! Here I am free!”
—Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
What advice would you give to aspiring artists?
Easy, just make what you love. And then do it over and over and over and over. Your grandmother is not a great cook because she does it with love, she is a great cook because she has made that recipe thousands of times. No matter how many times you spend in the sea, it will be hard. I’m not a photographer that shoots underwater, I’m a sea lover that shoots photos. Sounds the same but it is not. The photography is a tool that I use as a motivation to keep doing what I love: travel around the world and discover new seas. Without the camera I can keep doing what I love, the camera for me is a tool to document my experiences in life.