Mermaid Legends Swim In View at Santa Barbara Maritime Museum Photo Exhibit | Culture & Leisure


Posted on October 6, 2021
| 2:22 p.m.

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The mermaid model’s job is not an easy job. (Courtesy photo)

The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum will reopen its exhibition Mermaids: Visualizing the Myths and Legends through Photography, 16 images printed on canvas by Ralph Clevenger and friends, from November 11 to April 30 at the museum, 113 Harbor Way, Ste. 190.

Originally scheduled for April 22, 2020, the exhibit has been postponed due to pandemic closures. It is now opening thanks to the support of Mimi Michaelis, the Alice Tweed Tuohy Foundation and the Wood-Claeyssens Foundation.

There will be mermaid photo ops at the museum by appointment, 11:30 a.m. to 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 Santa Barbara Maritime Museum’s gallery exhibit – Visualizing Mermaid Myths and Legends Through Photography – were part of an underwater photography class Clevenger taught at Brooks Institute. Each summer, the students spent several days on a dive boat off the Channel Islands where they worked on their missions.

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

Clevenger said that as the students worked, the models faced a number of challenges:

“There is no doubt how hard the mermaids worked for these images,” he said. “Wearing fabric-covered monofin tails or molded silicone tails, they could swim farther and faster than any of us. While the students wore wetsuits in the cool 70 -degree. water, the mermaids were almost naked, spending over 30 minutes in the water at a time during a photoshoot.

“Models had to hold their breath and dive repeatedly, release their breath, to make their face look natural, pose gracefully, then come back to the surface. They did this over and over again, all day. 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.

The origins of the mermaid myth can be traced back by the thousands to the Assyrian goddess of the sea, Atargatis, who transformed into a mermaid by throwing herself into a lake. She emerged with the lower body of a fish and the upper body of a human. Since then, mermaids and mermaids have captured the imaginations of people and cultures around the world, including Europe, Asia and Africa.

In the West, the idea of ​​mermaids may have been influenced by mermaids from Greek mythology. A popular subject of art and literature, they have also been the subject of operas, comics, animation, and live action films.

Clevenger grew up on the coast of North Africa and started diving with his father in the Mediterranean Sea at the age of 7. 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 core faculty member at the Brooks Institute for 33 years, teaching courses in natural history and underwater photography.

Based in Santa Barbara, Clevenger specializes in location photography and video projects for eco-trips, environmental portraits, wildlife and underwater subjects. He has traveled on assignments for Fox Sports, the University of California, the Denali National Park Wilderness Center and the National Marine Sanctuary. He is the author of the book “Photographier la nature”, published by New Riders.


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