Austrian photographer and diver Andreas Franke has created a hauntingly beautiful series of images called “The Sinking World” in which he layers studio photographs over underwater ship wrecks. In 2009, the USS Vandenberg was lowered into the ocean off the coast of Florida to serve as an artificial reef. When Franke encountered the ship while diving, he was inspired by the vessel’s haunting emptiness. For the Vandenberg project, Franke superimposes photographs of recognizable, everyday scenes; the studio figures appear ghostly, as if they are re-enacting scenes that previously took place in a lively atmosphere. The empty ship becomes a site that reveals snapshots of a lost, surreal world, discovering the humanity that lurks among the ships hallways, passages, and decks. Franke creates an unexpected dream world where a viewer is pulled into a strange, new, and fantastical place.
This sunken ship not only provides the setting for Franke’s superimpositions, but also serves as a gallery where divers can swim up to Franke’s work, viewing his photographs in the very place that inspired his images. From the project’s website,
“The pictures engender extreme polarities: the soft, secretive underwater emptiness of sleeping shipwrecks is paired with real, authentic sceneries full of liveliness and vigor, thus creating a new world, equally bizarre and irresistibly entangling…
These spectacular underwater galleries make divers fall under their spell and display the work of the ocean itself. During the weeks and months under water the ocean bequeaths impressive, peerless traces to the pictures. It adorns them with a certain, peculiar patina, endowing them with the countenance of bizarre evanescence and transfiguring them into rare beauties.”
Franke has also created two other series of shipwreck images using period piece studio photography, as opposed to the everyday activities of the Vandenberg project. For the SS Stavronikita shipwreck, Franke superimposes photographs of people dressed in clothing and participating in activities evocative of Rococo. For the USS Mohawk, a WWII shipwreck, Franke imagines what life on the ship might look like, and creates a series of images in which the sailors have returned to haunt the ship. (via slow art day)