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Documenting life below the surface June 21, 2013

© Mark Tipple / The Underwater Project

Grip the sand, they remind themselves.

Go low, stay low.

Their faces spontaneously contort, their muscles tightening in reaction to the saltwater and the struggle for power in the ocean.

They surface when the surge has passed. Then breathe.

They don’t know that a camera has captured it all; from straining arms clawing at sand to eyes squeezed tightly shut against the bite of salt.

Mark Tipple holds the 11-pound camera as steady as possible in the melting foam and makes his way to the shore.

“Surf photography’s been around forever, I wanted something different” Mark says.

“I was bored of shooting empty waves. One day, I was caught inside by a big wave and as I dove underwater I suddenly thought I’d see what the kids next to me were going through – I turned the camera on them.”

That day, it took just one picture, ‘Escape’, to transform the way Mark viewed the ocean – the split-second decision to turn his camera on the swimmers setting the ball rolling for a series that has captured imaginations across the globe.

“That first image remains one of my strongest – I realised immediately that it was close to what I had been looking for ten years ago on my first surfing road trip.”

Christian Gehrke

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Developed by Christian Gehrke