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The Eyes Have It

Based in Cozumel, Mexico, British, blackwater image-maker Robert Stansfield knows how to capture eyeballs.



Text and images courtesy of Robert Stansfield.

Mushoom scorpionfish

“I’ve always been an avid photographer. After learning to dive, taking a camera underwater seemed the next logical step.”

Caribbean reef squid
Red tail parrotfish

“The underwater macro world is more fascinating than I could have ever imagined. Marine species have fascinating eyes. The adaptations are incredible. Corneal iridescence is a beautiful thing.”

Caribbean reef octopus

“This peacock flounder eye gets mistaken for an octopus so many times it makes me chuckle. The appendages around the eye make it look very alien.”

Peacock flounder

“Lesser Electric Rays allow you to get very close but appear to be fascinated by a strobe charging up.”

Lesser electric ray
Nurse shark

“The key to good macro photography is subject separation. It’s essential to make these super well-camouflaged subjects pop and stand out from their surroundings.”

Dark mantis shrimp

“From a diving perspective, solid fundamentals are essential. We don’t want to destroy the environment just to take a photo.”

Scaly tailed mantis

“The eye of a webbed burrfish looks like an alien planet. It’s not often I enjoy backscatter but here I feel it really works.”

Webbed burrfish

Dive Deeper (Into Stanfield’s work):

Oceanographic: In Black Water

Robert Stansfield is a published and multi-award-winning photographer. He is currently the owner of Blackwater Cozumel, Mexico’s first blackwater dive operation. As such, he organizes many macro workshops on Cozumel. Robert is an ambassador for the Marelux and Kraken brands and has been a diver since 2000. He is a TDI Cave Diver and an SSI/PADI instructor. Before becoming totally dedicated to diving and underwater photography, Robert worked as a touring video engineer for live events, including with big recording artists in rock and roll music. He also used his video engineering skills during the Olympics and FIFA World Cups.

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Coral Fibergrammetry

Dive instructor cum fashion designer Erik Speer weaves macramé fiber into phantasmagorical coral-like formations.




Text, photography and art courtesy of Erik Speer.

“I started off making basic macrame pieces about 5 years ago. I never started off with the intention of making pieces that resemble the underwater world. It just came about naturally. My first couple pieces were conglomerations of different materials and textures that I found interesting and people’s responses were always that it reminded them of coral reefs. I took that feedback and figured that I had found a way to really transfer my love of the underwater world to a medium that allowed me to share my scuba diving experiences with other people.”

“When I was in college I decided to drop out and move to Honduras to become a scuba instructor. For the next 2 years I traveled the globe teaching diving and seeing coral reefs that were both thriving and dying. I had to stop diving so much because I burst both my eardrums and risked losing my hearing for good if I kept diving daily. Those days of scuba diving are some of my most cherished memories and I love to think back on them and try to recreate the reefs and feelings I got from diving. My work is less about recreating the corals exactly as they are, but more about recreating the intrigue and wonder that diving on the reefs brought me. I want to make people curious about the underwater world and actively want to learn more and explore it on their own.”

“Yarns and fabrics were literally given to me when I was working in the fashion industry in NYC. There is such an excess of material in that industry that they are often thrown out or just left on shelves to collect dust. It was the material that I had access to so I decided to see what I could possibly do with it. It’s a great material that allows me to create unlimited amounts of textures and shapes.” 

“One square foot of a piece might contain 100 little knit “corals” where each piece took me 30 minutes to make. I usually give myself about 2 months to work on a piece. I really pride myself on making every little thing on a piece. I have been told I should outsource making sections of a piece that way I can produce more work within a year. However I don’t think the work would be the same. Anytime I feel rushed or questioned why I don’t take shortcuts to finish a piece quicker I just think about how long and coral reef takes to grow and thrive.”

“I definitely do not get to dive as much I would like. Usually just when I am on holiday. It is always a joy to get back underwater but it never lives up to when I was diving the same reef sometimes twice a day for months on end. Diving once at a site is amazing, but seeing a site day after day opens your eyes to the underwater world and how a reef is really a community that exists together.” 

“I am really inspired by the feeling and experience that SCUBA gave me and I hope my work brings a little bit of that to the viewer.”

Dive Deeper:

Born and raised in New Mexico, Erik Speer, moved to South Carolina at 15 and graduated from College of Charleston with a degree in marine biology. Went on a two year world tour teaching scuba diving. Suffered a diving accident and returned to the States and enrolled at Parsons. Graduated in December 2015 with an associate science degree in fashion design and began working in the industry. Was unfulfilled by the hands off design aspect of most fashion design so started experimenting with macrame and fiber arts. Currently focusing more on the fiber arts and experimenting with what is possible with it. Currently living in Georgia working as a full time artist.

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