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MER

Creative director and photographer Brenda Stumpf conjures up a crush of living, breathing mermaids and monsters that dwell deep within our collective unconscious.

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“Working at depth is a particular challenge with models and I was fortunate to have a fantastic crew and a subject who was not afraid to dive deep.” 

“Shooting in closed environments allows for more exploration in costuming and effects that might become too dangerous in the open water.  In this shot, with the help of a fantastic hair and makeup crew, we were able to create an underwater ‘ivy jungle’ that our model could interact with to create an image that is filled with movement.”

“California diving is extraordinary, but it is also difficult – cold, and often hampered with poor visibility.  On this day, we struck gold… late summer, water about as warm as it would get in the upper 60’s and visibility around 50 feet.   Under these conditions, Mermaid Virginia was a rockstar… and managed to perform effortlessly for more than double the usual time you would expect from a model under cold water conditions.”

 

“While not underwater, this is one of my favorite images.  The visibility that day was pure green soup out at the island – maybe 2 or 3 feet… so we improvised and pivoted our plan to do some shoreline images.  Paul became the pirate who finds Mermaid Virginia – washed ashore. The look on his face and the commitment to the story that they both provided – makes this image complete magic to me.”

“The sequences we shot in Mexico are some of my favorites… and this image rises to the top.  I wanted to portray the duality of the beautiful mermaid who is really a monster in disguise.  Above the water, she is beautiful and intriguing, and under the surface, she is all murder and terror.  Mermaid Jessica was able to pull this one due to her extraordinary presence and incredible costuming skills.  As a bonus, we had a few little fish that kept popping into the shots – that I think really added to the overall effect.”

“Nestled deep in the mangroves of the cenotes of the Yucatan, we found a spot that became the perfect ‘lair’ for our siren/monster mermaid.”  

“Another beautiful day on Catalina Island.  If you depart from the dive park, and explore around the island a little… you can find amazing locations at shallow depth, but with a ton of structure and beauty.”  

 

“This was such a fantastic moment.  Mermaid Linnea is a natural talent underwater, and so calm that all the garibaldi came in to check her out.”  

“Nestled into an underwater cave, this sweet mermaid glances out into the world above.  Mermaid Elisa brought this creature to life and is an extraordinary underwater talent.  She was able to work the rather difficult costuming with ease.”

“A little behind the scenes captured while we were on location for two weeks shooting in multiple locations throughout the Yucatan peninsula.  Best crew, and best models, best team.”  

-BRENDA STUMPF



Photo Details:

Header Image Credits: Location: Simi Valley, CA Model: Traci Hines Safety Diver: Virginia Hankins. “Mermaid Traci was an absolute delight to work with.  This was her first underwater mermaid photoshoot and I’m thrilled at how well it came out. “

Alissa Photo Credits; Location: Roatan, Honduras; Model: Alissa Quon; Safety Diver: Virginia Hankins

Virginia Photo Credits: Image 1; Location: Simi Valley, CA; Model: Virginia Hankins; Hair/makeup: Chrystina Yu Makeup & Natasha Johnson; Image 2; Location: Catalina Island, CA; Model: Virginia Hankins; Safety Diver: Jon Council; Image 3; Location: Catalina Island, CA; Models: Virginia Hankins, Paul Suda; Safety: Mike Varga

Jessica Photo Credits: Image 1; Location: Playa Del Carmen, Mexico; Model: Jessica Dru Johnson; Safety Diver: Mike Varga; Image 2; Location: Playa Del Carmen, Mexico; Model: Jessica Dru Johnson; Safety: Mike Varga

Linnea Photo Credits: Image 1; Location: Catalina Island, CA; Model: Linnea Snyderman; Safety: Jon Council; Image 2; Location: Catalina Island, CA; Model: Linnea Snyderman; Safety: Jon Council

Elisa Photo Credits: Location: Playa Del Carmen, Mexico; Model: Elisa Buller; Safety: Mike Varga

Virginia & Jessica Photo Credits: Location: Playa Del Carmen, Mexico; Models: Virginia Hankins, Jessica Dru Johnson; Safety: Mike Varga

Additional Resources

InDepth: One Way The World Learns to Mermaid: The Mer-spective from PADI’s Karl Shreeves by Michael Menduno

InDepth: Confessions of a Real-Life Entrepremer!Confessions of a Real-Life Entrepremer! by Linden Wolbert

InDepth: The Mermaids of Weeki Wachee by Pat Jablonski


Brenda Stumpf has been diving and making photos for the past 12 years in both closed and open water environments.  She specializes in fine art and portraiture and can be found passport in hand, ready to head out to another great adventure. You can find more on her website: Brenda Stumpf. For more mermaids, check out her book: The Mermaid Project.

Art

Pieces of Sea

German born artist Gabrielle Berlet explores our unusual connections with the sea, one piece at a time.

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Art and text by Gabrielle Berlet

“I’m a big fan of the Ocean. I’ve spent time in the Caribbean snorkeling and became enchanted. There’s more Ocean here than Earth. I’m concerned for her as much as all of Earth and want to help bring awareness. She’s the Pacha Mama!”

“In creating my collages, I don’t do much research or planning. I find a backdrop that attracts me as I look through magazines and cut out objects that appeal to me; a ball, a face a fish, and keep cutting until I have a good pile. Then I immerse myself into the artistic process, which involves insight, spontaneity, self-doubt, many feelings, and let the art arise. What has to happen, no matter what the changes, is that I get to the point where I say, “Yes, I love it!” I have to love it. Then I glue it all down and it is finished.”

“The desert scene? Its from 2004. I lived in the high desert and loved the changing light. It had an Ocean quality with the sands and exotic ancient plants. I decided to try my hand at collage. This piece was my first. From there my collage art took on a life of its own”

“The pieces that involve water, fish and creatures of the ocean just come to me. I cut out images that I am attracted to. For example, I found a fabulous picture of a mako shark that I sat on for years. One day it fit into a backdrop, which had something to say. The piece came at the beginning of the “Me Too” movement. I didn’t purposely set the shark against the girl, that was chance.”

“I found the blue shark and cut it out, and it just fit this bucolic scene. Then I added the woman. It was so bizarre; it should never happen, right? It was like global warming. We are at a point where anything can happen.”

“The strange, pink deep sea creature apparently had only been recently discovered. It’s called an axolotl. I thought it was quite cute. The piece came together at the beginning of the pandemic. I call it “Shelter in Place.” I love the background. I cut out the robe years before. It was on a beautiful model. It felt like the piece was missing something and so I added the pet. People were sheltering in place with their pets.”

“The piece with the blue grouper coming through the window is a photo of Mariah Carey’s living room from Architectural Digest. I worked on it for a long time. I needed something in the window space and waited months for it to come together. When I saw an article on groupers, I knew a grouper belonged in the window. It took a long time but I finally glued it down.”

“The mouth and arms? I don’t know what it says. I liked the urchins because they made a kind of cuff for the arms—I am a bit of a fashion freak. But the two arms were not enough and when I came upon the mouth it seemed like a perfect fit. The electric plug came as an after thought. It was bizarre but seemed to work. I don’t know the meaning yet. Coral bleaching?”

“What the pieces say, I don’t always know. I have one piece that feels like a vision of things to come. When I create them, I have to be in the ‘right attitude,” with my humanness and irony intact. I like those forms of expression.”


Gabrielle “Gabi” Berlet was born in Germany and raised both there and in London. She came to New York as a teenager and attended Art School there but had to switch to supporting herself when her parents returned to Europe. 
She moved to western Massachusetts after the birth of her son and created a successful retail fashion business there which thrived for 25 years. In 2020 she moved to Los Angeles, CA and from there to the high desert and finally retired to the Coachella Valley where she started to explore her latent artistic talents in the form of collage work. She currently shares her life with her partner Mikole Kaar, an accomplished Jazz artist in Palm Springs California. Her email is: Gabiberlet@gmail.com 



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