Working with both underwater and above water elements, there is a considerable color difference.
Generally speaking, color is perceived by the light that is reflected off of and/or absorbed by an object.  Color is interpreted by receptors in our eyes, and varies depending on the light’s wavelength (measured in nanometers, or “nm”).  Light with a wavelength of around 700nm is perceived as red, for example, while a wavelength of around 400 nm would be interpreted as violet.  The colors of the visible light spectrum are red, orange, yellow green, blue, indigo, and violet.
Excellent llustration of color absorption under water from
www.makewoodenlures.com
Due to the way that water absorbs light, there is a loss of perceived color when photographing underwater.  The longer the lights wavelength frequency, the easier it is absorbed by the density of water.  As depth and distance increase underwater, the harder it is for light to travel through.  In addition to getting darker, color too begins to fade, beginning with the red end of the visible light spectrum and followed by orange, green, blue, etc.  (An interesting point: While there is a point that the transmittance of color reaches absolute zero and none can be perceived, you could use something like a red filter and a longer exposure to filter out the blue light and give more time for light towards the red end of the spectrum to be detected.)
When we can simultaneously see light reflecting off an object- in this case, a figure- that is both inside and outside of water, the color shift is unmistakeable.  In every day seeing, we may take this dramatic change in color for granted as we are used to perceiving it that way, but to be able to examine the difference in a still, two dimensional image can be an entirely different experience.  I photographed under water for 14 years and never consciously noticed this remarkable color difference until seeing the images after those initial shoots in color.  I’d spent years integrating the three layers I’d become aware of– above the water, below the water, and the reflection on the surface of the water.  Shooting in B&W, I was always focused on the forms and relationships I was seeing happening within those three layers.  In working with the natural phenomenon of how water absorbs light, I found a fascinating fourth layer. 
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I discovered, quite by accident, that I could exaggerate the disparity of how things appeared above and below the surface of the water.  By lighting the portions of the body that are outside the water with warmer, natural light, while illuminating the submerged portions with a cooler, bluer underwater strobe, the passage from above to below became extraordinarily distinct.  The boundary between above and below water became charged, creating fascinating transitions and bizarre transformations.  [Since the strobe only illuminates what is under the water, there is also a significant exposure difference between what is above and below the surface.  By considerably slowing the shutter speed, the body above the water becomes soft due to the motion blur, while the strobe freezes the body underwater into sharp focus.  This differentiation can give the body outside the water an ethereal, flame-like feel that contrasts with the hardened, cold, stone-like feel of the body underneath, like in this image from 2009:


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In this image, the shutter speed is so slow and the exposure is so long that the warm light above the water manages to illuminate the body just barely below the surface.  You can see how the strobe has sharpened the right side of his face that is submerged in the water, making it both sharp and much bluer in hue.

I find all of this- and the science behind it- just incredible and truly fascinating.  I had no idea these dramatic effects of light and color were happening right before my eyes for so long, and the discovery of them reinvigorated the intrigue I’ve always had for working with this subject matter. 


Photographed on a trip to Bhutan in 1978 

The mask has been used throughout history not only as a way to disguise oneself but a means to project a different persona.  Early cultures and civilizations used masks in sacred ceremonies as a means of channeling spirits and/or gods.  Ancient Greeks introduced masks into theatrical productions to hide the individual and personify their character.  Masks continued to be used in miracle, morality, and mystery plays throughout the Middle Ages, as well as in sacred dramas in Tibet.  Today, party goers at cultural events like Mardi Gras and Carnival become unencumbered by their typical inhibitions behind the guise of their masks, and protesters have made use of the Guy Fawkes mask from the movie “V for Vendetta” as a symbol of opposition and anti-establishment.

Psychologically, we hide behind masks every day; in the way we present ourselves to the world, act in certain situations, and conduct ourselves within a given environment.  We may use masks to hide our deepest, darkest fears, or we may use them to reveal our truer, inner selves.  Oscar Wilde said “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person, give him a mask and he will tell the truth”. 
I’ve always been fascinated by the powerful symbols that masks can be, and the phenomenon of transforming oneself with a mask.  The theme of the mask has been consistent throughout my work from very early on.  From a very early age, I had struggled with identity issues.  I was confronted with the realization that I loved other girls at age 11, at a time when the masses considered homosexuality a perversion, and was wrecked with feelings of being an outsider.  I feared I was a pervert, a freak, and an outcast.  Fearing I was destined to be lonely and unfulfilled for the rest of my life, I vowed to hide my true self and my secret at all costs.  

Then in 1972, as a young student at MICA, I had created this self-portrait:
I had been experimenting in the darkroom by cutting, scratching, and burning negatives.  For this image, I cut the negative in half, put it in the enlarger, and projected it onto photographic paper.  The little Connie inside the split was a cut-out face of me from a different negative that I put directly on the photographic paper during the exposure.  By cutting the negative, I inadvertently cut the symbol of my facade or public mask in half to reveal the little Connie that had been stored away.

It wasn’t my intention to make an image that made a revealing statement about myself or my secrets, I was simply playing and experimenting.  It took me years to even grasp the full significance of what this image meant.  Although it was technically crude, this was the first time that I used the symbol of a mask.  Throughout the course of my work, the archetypal symbolism of masks have re-emerged again and again, sometimes in the water:



But more often, and more reminiscent of the early cut negative self-portrait, in the mirrors:


  
I’ve been thinking about this recently because one of the latest images shot in the mirrors has a very strong feeling of a figure removing a mask:


I love the gesture in this image- the way she seems to be holding the mask as if just revealing her confident and clear self beneath.  The mask is almost ephemeral, even though she clearly has a grasp on it, and I love how it has the feeling of a full face masquerade type mask.  There’s a sort of twisted elegance about her figure, and the way she has exposed her true self feels very natural, despite the overall bizarre quality of the image.

Whenever the appearance of masks have come up in my work,  it is always in the form of layers, both visually and symbolically.  I’ve often interpreted them as conveying psychological layers, representing conscious and unconscious elements, revealing deeper levels of understanding and awareness.  Carl Jung said that “the persona [mask] is that which in reality one is not, but which oneself as well as others think one is”.  In many of these images, I see layers of the psyche being either exposed or hidden, the persona being projected or revealed through the presence or removal of the mask.  Continuing to work intuitively, it is always exciting to see common threads like this resurface in my work throughout the years…