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Dawn of a sense of vastness and depth with Alexej Sachov’s underwater photography

The deep surrealism of Ukraine-born Alexej Sachov’s underwater photography, heightened by hues of blue, opens a contrast between marine life and plastic waste.

by Dilpreet BhullarPublished on : Aug 02, 2023

The crest and trough of the waves make for an experience that makes humans realise their minuscule existence in the face of the deep blue sea. The underwater photography, if at once adventurous, also lay bare the wonders that lie buried beyond the human eyes. Under the camera lens, as it captures the light travelling through water, what is witnessed is the spectrum of blue enveloping the sea environment. The Ukraine-born Alexej Sachov’s underwater photography nurtures an aesthetic appeal—a blend of painting and storytelling. Blue in his photographic practice evokes a sense of depth and vastness, where the different shades of blue create a gradient effect, showcasing the various depths and layers of the ocean.

New Cosmos Underwater. Repentance, 2023, Photograph | Alexej Sachov | STIRworld
New Cosmos Underwater. Repentance, 2023, Photograph Image: Alexej Sachov

A diver who is now a practicing underwater photographer, Sachov has been to Egypt several times where the world of underwater photography is one of the most fascinating ones. In an interview with STIR, he confides, “There you meet divers from around the globe. But presenting nice pictures to others was not the reason for me to take up underwater photography.” For an active person by nature who is constantly finding activities to keep himself busy, “It was boring for me just to swim relaxed with a group of divers.” To utilise the time underwater with an extra activity he started to take cameras underwater from his 15th dive. But it was just a start, which could not be formally termed photography.

Edge of the wave, The Edge, 2021, Photograph | Alexej Sachov | STIRworld
Edge of the wave, The Edge, 2021, Photograph Image: Alexej Sachov

Even if the photographs shot by his mother sowed the seeds of interest, Sachov’s true passion lay in the sky. He spent his youth building combustion engines for his aircraft models and excelled in engineering and information technologies, earning an honours diploma. Sachov later channelled his creativity into building complex computer systems, working in Ukraine, Russia, and Germany. His fascination with the marine world and his passion for diving drew him towards underwater photography. After relocating to Ukraine from Germany, he joined the Kyiv School of Photography, immersing himself in courses and workshops to further develop his skills.

Hotel Guests Underwater. Ghost Rider, 2023, Photograph | Alexej Sachov | STIRworld
Hotel Guests Underwater. Ghost Rider, 2023, Photograph Image: Alexej Sachov

The photographs from the series Mood Changes of the Sea and Edge of the Wave, entice the viewers to explore the hidden depths and discovery of the marine world. As the light penetrates the water, the dominance of the colour blue is absorbed and scattered, resulting in the blue hue that defines underwater scenes. The surrealism of the works captures the various shades of blue as it sets the tone and creates a captivating atmosphere for the viewer. The element of surrealism for Sachov is an approach to look and think wider, to initiate associations and wake up creativity in a viewer. “Nobody will hang a nice, realistic but terrifying picture of sewage tubes in the office or at home. A surrealistic photo of harvested underwater plastic has a much higher chance to reach a viewer, to stay with him longer, regularly reminding him to not buy plastic packets, environmentally harmful cosmetics, or other environmentally harmful products. Such pictures have a higher chance to get a prominent place in contemporary art museums and galleries, the author can invest the earned revenue in protecting our nice world,” affirms Sachov.

Edge of the wave. Mountain, 2021, Photograph | Alexej Sachov | STIRworld
Edge of the wave. Mountain, 2021, Photograph Image: Alexej Sachov

The Hotel Guests Underwater series opens the beauty and fragility of marine life and ecosystems, showcasing the curiosities that need to be safeguarded. By capturing the devastating effects of pollution, overfishing, and habitat destruction, these photographs serve as a call to action: urging both individual and collective bodies to take steps towards sustainable practices. When the colour blue acts as both a backdrop and a highlighter in the underwater photography, the floating coral reefs pop and plastic waste make for a stunning shock. The interplay between living cosmos and synthetic adds the contrast in terms of colour schemata and the urgent environmental crisis. To mention, marine conservation photography can foster a deeper appreciation and understanding of the need to preserve these vital habitats for future generations. The poignancy with which the artworks reflect the harmony of the worlds above and below the composition occupies the liminal space, which is both abstract and absolute.

Hotel Guests Underwater. Bobby, 2023, Photograph | Alexej Sachov | STIRworld
Hotel Guests Underwater. Bobby, 2023, Photograph Image: Alexej Sachov

When environmental photography has saturated the television and mobile screen, it is seldom that one encounters the gamut of visual narratives on underwater photography. As the gaze travels across the movement of the wave one sees the scale and intensity of the water body. On the other hand, the natural habitat, much like humans, allows the former to be perceived as a sentient being of the sea in the images. The photograph sets a powerful reminder of our interconnectedness and the need to safeguard its wonders. Driven by a desire to elevate underwater photography to the realm of powerful contemporary art, Sachov is hopeful the viewers would be sensitive to reducing the consumption of environmentally harmful products. His works are currently present at the Tampa airport, USA and will be presented soon in Seoul, South Korea as part of the Travel Photographer of the Year exhibition.

Modern Cosmos Underwater. Modern Ghost underwater, 2022, Photograph | Alexej Sachov | STIRworld
Modern Cosmos Underwater. Modern Ghost underwater, 2022, Photograph Image: Alexej Sachov

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