Tethered to an air hose and working with water-tight equipment, Ric Frazier creates images and video underwater.
Some people are immersed in their work. For Ric Frazier, it’s more like submersed. The Los Angeles-based photographer and director has cut an impressive swath in the advertising market with evocative, award-winning underwater photography and videos. Having shot for Nike, MTV, Hilton and Kodak, among others, Frazier dove (quite literally) into advertising photography, but something else was tugging at him. “I kept getting these still jobs and I kept seeing a director get the underwater video portion, when in reality it was the same exact shot,” Frazier recalled. “So six years ago I decided I wanted to learn how to load a 35mm video camera, build a director’s reel and get both sides of the job.” It was, from a marketing standpoint, a wise choice as clients can get two skills in one individual. It also led to some standalone directorial work for clients such as Alanis Morissette and MTV. “Video is a bit more challenging technically than photography, but I’ve always been comfortable with technology,” says Frazier. That’s not to say there weren’t any challenges. With stills, Frazier explained, there’s a natural ebb and flow to a shoot: you look for perfection in fleeting instances. With video, there’s no downtime. “Everything has to be perfect, at all times. There’s no forgiveness.” Filming underwater adds another layer of complexity. When Frazier shoots underwater stills, he simply holds his breath. But for video, he’s tethered to a hookah hose, which feeds him compressed air from a scuba tank. The hose restricts his range of movement, and of course, there’s other movement to contend with—the water. “Underwater, you are the dolly, so you have to get used to the fluid movement of the water to keep your video steady,” Frazier observed. “When I first started, I found a lot of my footage was jerky.” Frazier shoots a mix of film (16mm and 35mm) or digital footage with the RED One, depending on client needs.