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© jarmo pikkujamsa

“DEEP” is a series that dives into the waters of the Senegal River and the Atlantic Ocean, off the island of Saint-Louis, called Ndar in Wolof. It’s a selection of underwater portraits, which for many locals have a frightening aspect. Not without reason, since among the fishermen there are frequent drownings due to strong undercurrents, lack of swimming skills and boat accidents. Yet, there are those who are not afraid and who can swim and dive deep. The most notorious of these will even fetch the drowned from the depths of the water. Some of you may have heard of the famous man called Seydou, who throughout his long life would always be called to locate and fetch the body of a person who had drowned in the river.

While for many crossing the river requires a prayer or two, or offerings to the spirits who live in the dark waters, to me the feeling of free diving and being surrounded by water is just thrilling. It’s the soft resistance of water that gives you a very special sense of body and dimensions and a complete “out of this world” feeling that does the trick every time.

With this photography project I have discovered what it’s like to share that feeling, as some of my friends who agreed on being photographed were able to “let go” and just float freely under water until I had made my shots and gave them a sign that we can return on the surface again. These are friends who are good swimmers and would normally work in the summer as life guards on the beach. For example to Babacar, who also teaches swimming to children at the university’s Olympic pool, this type of free diving experience has been a discovery of a new form of meditation. As for me, that is certainly the case too, except that I also need to focus on shooting, holding my hand steady, actually holding my entire body steady and resist to resurfacing – not easy when your lungs are full of air. Next thing on shopping list: a weight belt! Or why not make one myself..

Exhibition “DEEP” in Kristiinankaupunki (Finland) 10.-17.6. 2018. Images printed on canvas, dimensions between 50 x 60 cm and 50 x 100 cm.

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