Underwater photographs by Barbara Cole that look like oil paintings of bathing women

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"Figure transformation has been a predominant theme in my work. Over the past thirty years, I have been operating as a painter but employing traditional photographic tools," says Barbara Cole, a fine art photographer from Toronto whose whimsical take on underwater photography will certainly make you think twice.

Every image that she captures could easily be mistaken for an oil painting. And that's certainly deliberate. "I rework this canvas with a toolkit that includes clouds, reflections, plastic sheeting, cloth-encased figures as well as aperture, shutter speed and artificial lighting," explains Barbara. "I will photograph from above in order to flatten the perspective. It is important to me to capture these photographic constructions completely in-camera creating everything on site rather than later with Photoshop as much as possible."

Apparently, Barbara has always been one to test the waters. Her inherent artistic eye and driven nature propelled her from model to fashion photographer, and now a globally recognised artist. She has found creative expression and freedom by diving below the surface.

"Over the past decade, my practice has explored the medium of water, which has become a natural lens that refocuses and reinterprets my painterly aesthetic," Barbara adds. "Water allows me to move the human figure in unconventional ways. Photography affords me the ability to play with notions of time and place.

"By seeing through water, rather than through air, I am able to re-envision the nature of our relationship to our surroundings. Working in the water also provides an ideal space to continue to explore figuratively. It also allows me to refocus attention on this natural resource that we have in abundance and is often taken for granted.

"Challenging the perception of the figure in space is another strong thematic element in my work. Of late I find myself slowly progressing toward the almost total dissolution of the figure creating a dramatic tension between the figure and form, testing the nature of photography and its impact on our experience of reality."

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