The world of mermaids floats in the maritime museum’s photo exhibition | Culture & Leisure


Posted on November 7, 2021
| 5:01 p.m.

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Mermaid image by Liz Grady, a student of photographer Ralph A. Clevenger. (Liz Grady)

The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum has announced the reopening of the exhibition Mermaids: Visualizing the Myths & Legends – Photography by Ralph A. Clevenger and Friends, 16 images printed on canvas.

Originally scheduled for April 22, the exhibition has been postponed due to pandemic closures. The exhibition will now be open to the public from November 11 to March 31, thanks to the support of the George H. & Olive J. Griffiths Charitable Foundation, Mimi Michaelis, Jack Mithun and Mercedes Millington, June G. Outhwaite Charitable Trust, Alice Tweed Tuohy Foundation and the Wood-Claeyssens Foundation.

There will be mermaid photo ops at the museum by appointment at 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, November 13. The cost is $ 10 for museum members and $ 30 for non-members.

Most of the 16 images featured in the gallery’s exhibit were part of an underwater photography course Clevenger taught at the Brooks Institute. Each summer, the students in the class spent several days living on a dive boat off the Channel Islands where they worked on missions.

Clevenger would invite professional mermaids to join the class on the boat and work with the students, creating portraits, visual stories, and concept images for their final class portfolios.

In Clevenger’s words, while the students worked, the models encountered a number of difficulties: “There is no doubt how hard the mermaids worked for these images. Wearing fabric-covered monofin tails
or silicone molded tails, they could swim farther and faster than any of us.

As the students wore wetsuits in the cold 70-degree water, the mermaids were nearly naked, spending more than 30 minutes in the water at a time during a photoshoot. The models had to hold their breath and dive in over and over, release their breath, so their face looked natural, posed gracefully, then came back to the surface. They did it over and over, all day, “Clevenger said.

“We have always provided safety divers, paddle boards for mermaids to rest on, as well as hot showers and hot drinks on the boat between shots,” he said.

Clevenger grew up on the coast of North Africa and began diving with his father in the Mediterranean Sea at the age of seven. He then studied zoology and worked for the Scripps Institution of
Oceanography in San Diego as a diver / biologist before attending the Brooks Institute of Photography. Clevenger was a senior faculty member at Brooks for 33 years.

Based in Santa Barbara, Clevenger specializes in location photography and video projects for eco-trips, environmental portraits, wildlife and underwater subjects.

Some of the images on the show were taken by Clevenger; some of them by his student photographers including:

John Kelsey, from Vancouver Island, who uses his photos to show his appreciation for the natural world. He works for the ocean conservation organization Sea Legacy.

Eryn M. Brydon is a visual artist who focuses on the human connection with the ocean. She holds a BA in Photography from Brooks and is currently working on an MA in Photography and Film from Mount Saint Mary’s University.

Beatriz Moino is originally from Guatemala and holds a Bachelor of Liberal Arts with a minor in Photography from Francisco Marroquin University. Her passion for photography led her to study at Brooks.

Liz Grady is a photographer, digital technician and stylist in the photography industry.

Chiara Salomoni grew up in Italy and graduated from the Brera Academy of Fine Arts in Milan before attending the Brooks Institute. His photography specializes in underwater fauna and fashion. She is the co-founder of Mermaids for Change.

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