Miami-based George Kamper is as much a thrill seeker as he is a skilled lifestyle photographer. He is unafraid to test his limits when it comes to crafting the ideal shot, and his skills have taken him to some pretty special places both above and below sea level.
In his latest editorial assignment for Venice magazine, George took to the water to photograph a series featuring four-time Olympic synchronized swimming champion, Kristina Makushenko. An experienced scuba diver himself, George spent a day making bubbles as he showcased Kristina’s striking abilities.
I’m a land-based photographer, but I think of myself as a strong problem-solver. I’m always looking for an opportunity to challenge myself, and I love shooting out of planes or underwater to capture the perfect shot.
George was contacted by Nila do Simon, Editor at Venice, to photograph Kristina for this editorial assignment and he quickly looked her up online. After witnessing her impressive talents, George determined that getting fully submerged was the best way to highlight her expertise.
Our creative challenge, aside from making great images, was to create a narrative that allowed the viewer to appreciate Kristina’s skills.
For any shoot, whether it’s focused on advertising or editorial photography, George does his homework on the setting, subject, and specs that he’s working with. He wanted an 8ft deep pool to have ample space to shoot and took pains to scrutinize the color of the light and the reflections from the water when scouting locations. Carlos Suarez, the founder of Venice Magazine, was a member of the Ft. Lauderdale Yacht Club and facilitated the ideal location for the shot.
We took into consideration lighting direction, depth and design of the pool, location, budget, and overall control of the area.
Kristina classifies herself as both athlete and artistic swimmer, and she’s established a social media following through which she’s popularized her form of dance as “Rhythmic Gymnastics Underwater.” When styling and staging the shots, George called upon elements that would speak to the subject’s artistry as well as her ability.
We wanted to create a few more artful images opting for more artistic camera angles, vibrant colors, and free flowing fabrics.
George discussed the wardrobe with his stylist Elie Rosetti, and through his direction, she brought an array of colors and textures that would pop in contrast with the blue tones of the pool. Kristina, however, arrived on set with her shoes, as many of her moves showcase her signature upside-down catwalk.
In conversations with our stylist, we planned to use a variety of color and materials in our wardrobe selection to help tell our story. I wanted to utilize primary colors in these to juxtapose against the blue water.
While George has previously worked with ballet dancers in an undersea setting, Kristina’s unique ability enabled him to play with the free-form motion of being underwater. Her gift for controlling her body and placement while simultaneously holding her breath for several minutes led George to produce gifs and videos along with the images. This helped to capture Kristina’s trademark “moonwalk” in action.
We wanted to accentuate Kristina’s skills and precision so I photographed her performing a perfect 360 underwater.
When working with a trained athlete like Kristina, it’s important to trust in her ability to stage the shoot according to her incredible talents and moves. Synchronized swimming is judged based on the swimmer’s performance so Kristina already knows what movements receive high marks.
She had some ideas and was very knowledgeable about how she looked best. I’d show her a few of the takes, and she’d make suggestions on the shoot, while we were still in the water.
For photographers like George, there’s nothing more gratifying than learning how to work in an unconventional setting. Often these shoots will lead him to approach assignments from a unique perspective, and his creativity evolves through each challenge he overcomes. George knows that the small details, like using his own bubble machine underwater, add to the overall composition of his artful imagery.
Photographer: George Kamper
Publisher: Carlos Suarez
Editor: Nila do Simon
Talent: Kristina Makusheko
Photo Assistant: Miguel Mori
Digital Tech: Johnny Lynch
Photo Assistant: Greg Wheeler
Wardrobe Stylist: Elie Rosetti
Makeup and Hair: Leslie Munsell
Behind-The-Scenes Underwater Videographer: Captain Nick Kamper
Behind-The-Scenes Photographer: Sherryl Kamper