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Water is Kerstin Kuntze’s home. Equipped with a Leica X-U she manages to produce surreal images that have been exhibited in cities such as Stuttgart, Paris and Seoul. In our interview, the passionate swimmer tells us about how it all began, the relationship between art and water, and the sensation of the small moment.

LFI: Taking photographs under water is an art that is practised by just a few. How did you come to choose it?

Kerstin Kuntze: Even as a child I could be found joyfully playing in the water and taking pictures. I’m a passionate swimmer and have spent the last ten years at pools or lakes; now swimming at least 3000 metres a day. This led quite simply to the Wasserlust° | SWIMPOPLOVE° cycle, which combines art and an irrepressible love of water.  

What are the photographic challenges that need to be faced with underwater photography, which don’t exist on land? What is particularly significant?

You need to love water and know it well like a lover. It’s very multi-faceted: at times smooth like a polished mirror, others wild and foamy, with violent waves, dark black, dazzling in the sun, with amazing reflections... Despite countless liquid hugs, I always discover something new.

If I was afraid of drowning there would be no way I could concentrate on the most exciting moments; and just like I become one with the water, I need to become one with the camera, because I can’t focus manually under water. I need to be able to depend on the technology, so that I can act intuitively. That’s why I love my Leica X-U. Its quality is captivating, and I’m able to take pictures without having to deal with any kind of bothersome casing.

I find your photos have a considerateness that radiates a lot of positive energy. Is there a key statement that unites all your pictures?

I like to think of considerateness as synonymous with deliberate, powerful design. There is a positive energy in anything you do with enthusiasm. I love what I’m showing and I find great beauty in every individual – and even in the smallest air bubble.

The sensation of the small moment appeals to me. I want to transform the fleeting into something that remains, and create timeless icons that celebrate life. This is why swimming allows me to feel life in all its force. My pictures should capture, electrify, touch – just like water touches me.

Light conditions under water are increasingly difficult the deeper you go. What role does post-production play in your images?

Water gobbles up light and colours greedily, which is why post-production plays all the more important a role. Because I’m always trying to create something unique out of something hazy, the graphic processing is in no way concealed. I set the pictures free, I free them from the blue-green haze, I emphasise certain details and let others disappear. All this wouldn’t be possible without my trusty companions, Lightroom and Photoshop.

Your motifs are always located just below the surface of the water. Have you ever considered diving deeper, to take pictures of underwater flora and fauna?

Most of the time I take my pictures from around two or three metres deep, in diving pools sometimes as much as five or six metres. Because I’m dealing mostly with the connection between people and nature, there are few purely wildlife photographs in my portfolio.

I’m fascinated by swimming unhindered. I can’t imagine donning a neoprene suit and then diving with a massive amount of tech gear. What I could imagine is that Apnea diving would offer new perspectives.

All images on this page © Kerstin Kuntze
Equipment: Leica X-U
© Kerstin Kuntze

Kerstin Kuntze

Kerstin Kuntze was born in Cologne in 1965, and grew up in Meerbusch with three younger siblings. After studying Graphic Design at the renowned Folkwang University of the Arts, she worked as an art director for large advertising agencies. Since 2000, she has been living, swimming and working as a free-lance artist, with her husband and three children, on the outskirts of Frankfurt.

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