Chris Crumley’s Mermaid Photography

17 Jan

Chris Crumley photographing mermaid Malena Sharkey; photo by Robert Minnick

Photographer Chris Crumley takes some of the most gorgeous mermaid photographs out there–and some of the most gorgeous underwater photos generally, of ecstatic divers, women holding balloons, brightly colored sea creatures, shipwrecks and kelp forests, tuxedo-ed and be-gowned dancing couples, and really whatever else you can think of, made ethereal and otherworldly, suspended in water. He also occasionally takes some above-ground photos. But… mermaids! Just take a gander at the photos below, with all credits included at his generous request:

Here is a very glamorously evil Iara Mandyn in a Eric Ducharme Mertailor tail in Crystal River (with assistance from Jack Gittings):

Here’s Iara in another Mertailor tail, in an anchored-down Victoria + Albert clawfoot tub (!), behind the home of fabulous former mermaid Vicki Smith in the Weeki Wachee River (with help by Matthew Quijano, Jack Gittings, and Matthew Ryan Christopher). How gorgeous is this?:

And then here’s Ashley Nadine in the Rainbow River Headspring, in a Mertailor tail (aren’t they so amazing?) and with assistance from Matthew Quijano, Eric Ascioti and Jack Gittings:

And Kristi Sherk in a Mertailor tail, at Chuck Guthrie’s Lynnhaven Marine Boatel Reflection Pool, with Chuck Guthrie assisting. A photo from the same shoot graced the cover of the first Mermaids & Mythology Magazine:

Malena Sharkey diving in Cozumel, in the stunning image that’s on the cover of Sarah Porter’s YA novel Lost Voices:

And finally, here’s Iara in a Mertailor tail, swimming in the Weeki Wachee River (and willfully ignoring all threat of gators!):

And this is just a small, small sampling selected by yours truly. Go to Chris’s website and BlogBook to see about a zillion more (after reading the illuminating interview below). I know. Amazing.

So how did you get into underwater photography?
I was an amateur photographer and got the idea that I wanted to take a person’s picture underwater. I bought a plastic EWA bag for an old Canon 35mm and did breathold photography in a friend’s pool. Didn’t do so well and thought if I was on SCUBA I would have more time to compose and frame, so I went to a dive shop asking for air, learned that I needed to be certified, took the course, got the air and off I went. At this point I have over 5,000 logged dives with only seven without a camera.

When did you start photographing mermaids?
Working with Sherry Smith in Mexico or Turks & Caicos Islands, we talked about doing something different than standard underwater photographer and model things. She went back to Illinois and talked to a college fashion design professor who sketched some “costume” designs and gave me a quote to make the choice.

Where—and from whom—do you get your tails?
I use eight tails. Tail #1 was conceived by model Sherry Smith and me, then designed by a fashion design instructor at the University of Southern Illinois. The instructor sent me several sketched designs, I picked one, she quoted doing the fabrication using Sherry for sizing. It was fabricated using 3/16″ neoprene with sewed-on scales and a fluke over two swim-fins epoxied together.

Tail #2, 3 and 4 were fabricated similarly, but in two pieces, with a neoprene torso and a painted monofin.

Tail #5 was made of latex rubber by Adam Martyn, Carpathian Creations, in Budapest, Hungary. It is an attractive tail but had some issues that made us dedicate it to dry use.

Tails #6, 7 and 8 are silicone tails by Eric Ducharme (the Mertailor). They are by far the best of all tails I’ve used.
Tail#6 was used for the cover of Mermaids & Mythology magazine (blue-green color).
Tail#7 was used for the Hasselblad Europe new product announcement (see 60 megapixel product launch; goldfish color).
Tail#8 is black and was used for the Evil Mermaid images.

Can you talk about some of the challenges of working with mermaids?
The major challenge is finding someone who is uber-comfortable in water, has reasonable breathhold ability, and is able to relax his/her face, swim gently like dolphin, fit one of my tails and love it. I developed and teach underwater modeling and photography, so I’m used to coaching and helping a new photo-mermaid build his/her skill set.

Have you always been fascinated by/attracted to life underwater?
Yes, I was born in Savannah, Georgia, and have been “water person” whole life.

How would you describe the allure of the sea and its denizens (mermaids)?
I’m attracted to pretty much all things of the oceans. I’ve photographed whales, whale sharks, sharks, people, shipwrecks and, now, mermaids.

Can you tell me about some of your more interesting and adventurous mermaid shoots?
I just returned from the Florida spring-fed rivers shooting. One project was to put a clawfoot bathtub in the Weeki Wachee River. I’ve also photographed a mermaid with wild spotted dolphins on the Bahama Bank off Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas.

How do the ideas for these shoots come about?
There is no one way. Sometimes I just have a mental picture for a new image. Other times, I’ll see an unrelated image that appeals and it inspires me to do something similar with a mermaid theme. Or, a model/mermaid will suggest something. A good example of this is the “Evil Mermaid” idea. A couple of my models wanted to do the “Evil” theme. However, it’s a fun Evil, not ugly Evil.

How did the clawfoot tub shoot come about, and how did you make that happen?
I saw a clawfoot tub at a local Lowe’s hardware store and took a snapshot of it, then designed an image and did a mockup. I borrowed tubs from plumbing suppliers (see credits here) and shot in studio during cold months (see this photo and others in the BlogBook). Then I shot on beaches and islands (see this image + this one), shot in a pool, and shot in central Florida spring-fed rivers (see this photo and others in the BlogBook).

This is still an ongoing project, and I’ve been working with various models, the PR agency for the tub manufacturer, and others.

Do you have any advice for photographers hoping to capture mermaids on film as beautifully as you do?
The first thing is to develop a skill for taking photographs underwater. There is lots to learn before being able to produce something of high quality. Also, it is an equipment-intensive endeavor (camera, underwater housing, lights, mask, fins, scuba, etc.). Then, acquire a realistic tail and accessories (tops, jewelry, etc.) and/or a “mermaid” who has his/her own tail and experience modeling.

Do you have any advice for mermaid models, and aspiring mermaids generally?
This probably goes without saying, but you have to love it, and then start working on the skills you need, which I mention above. Then, find a photographer and connect. Go shoot and keep shooting. You must keep trying new and different things to develop a portfolio of quality images. Oftentimes, this means traveling for both. Not often is there a tail, a mermaid, suitable water and an mermaid-keen underwater photographer all in the same town/city.


16 Responses to “Chris Crumley’s Mermaid Photography”

  1. Caroline May 26, 2013 at 3:38 AM #

    Excuse unintended pun but…. Truly BREATHTAKING!! I have never seen such beautiful & innovative photography/art. Totally blown away!! :))

  2. captflash88 April 23, 2014 at 3:43 PM #

    I saw your name on a google+ community, Peacocks and Mermaids. I do a lot of mermaids and have just started posting some of the fifty + pieces I’ve done. Please check them out. there are many more from wench they have come.

  3. thinkingtwentythingsatonce February 17, 2019 at 2:35 PM #

    Hello. I think your photos are fabulous, and one inspired a short piece of my writing. I have used your picture to accompany this on my blog (with appropriate credit of course) but please let me know if you are unhappy with this and I will remove it. See link here:
    Many thanks


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