Lexi Laine is based on the south coast of the UK and specializes in creating ethereal underwater photography in some of the most unique and pristine locations around the globe. Works responding to the human impact on the marine environment can be seen throughout the artist’s portfolio. Influences of historical painting, mythology and folklore can also often be found in her images. Lexi enjoys explorations of surreal contradictions, blurring boundaries and using photography as a means to create otherworldly, emotive art.
She has spent several years training as a freediver in order to extend the amount of time she can stay underwater. Rather than using scuba equipment, Lexi chooses instead to undertake all of her work on a single breath hold. More often than not her photographs depict a single female or multiple women, featuring highly skilled freedivers as the subjects.
Lexi studied BA Fine Art at UCA (University for the Creative Arts) Canterbury in 2001-2004 and since graduating has been building her career as a photographer and artist. In 2020 Lexi was awarded the winner of The Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize Photography Award.
I enjoy exploring contrasts; creating images that portray the otherworldly beauty of natural underwater environments but often with elements that seem incongruous. I admire the aesthetic of baroque art and I look for techniques to make photography feel more painterly.
I believe that ocean conservation is one of the most pressing challenges that we face and through my work, I explore the responsibility we have in protecting this part of our world. I choose to undertake all of these projects whilst freediving because it gives me a better connection with my models and with the environment in which I work.
When did your interest in art begin vs. when you began thinking of it as a career/life choice?
I am very lucky as from a young age I have always been encouraged in my creativity. My mother is an artist so she enthusiastically supported me in my decision to go to art school. Towards the end of my degree in Fine Art, I remember the lecturers telling us as a cohort that it would be very difficult to make a career as an artist. I felt very discouraged at that point and so sought out a career that would allow me to be creative but also to earn a living. I started working as a commercial photographer and for many years this allowed me to use my artistic skills and kept me feeling challenged and inspired. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-thirties when I began to make art for art sake again. I had started to feel that my chosen career wasn’t allowing me to fully express myself and so I embarked on a passion project. This allowed me to combine my love of the ocean and the female form. By using the medium of photography, I began to make underwater images that somehow filled a gap that had been missing. Roll on five years and I’m now happy to call this my full-time job. I spend part of my time traveling the world making my art and the other parts producing and selling limited edition prints of my creations.
What draws you to your particular subject matter?
I am drawn to water. I always have been. As a child I spent my summer holidays in the sea, diving down to collect shells. When I went to art school, I found an interest in studying the female form and feminist art. I also found my love for photography whilst at art school and so I eventually decided to combine all of these subject matters and this medium together. I love the way that light interacts underwater, I also love the way fabric behaves. I am an admirer of historical art, especially paintings from the Baroque period. I love to bring painterly elements into my photography and I think my love for painting definitely influences the way that I make my photographs. I am interested in the idea that I can blur boundaries between these mediums.
What interest of yours (outside of art) ends up influencing your practice the most?
Around the same time that I began making underwater photographs, I also started training as a freediver. I have spent the last few years developing my skills so that I can essentially hold my breath for a longer period. The models that I photograph are also freedivers so all of the work we create is done on breath hold alone. Freediving as a hobby has definitely helped me with my process of creating but it has also opened me up to a whole community of likeminded people who are equally passionate about being in water. And with that it has also opened my eyes to how we as a human race mistreat our oceans and our environment generally. Ocean conservation has become a driving force for me in my art and I often make pieces that convey important messages about this.
What is one piece of advice you wish you could give your younger self?
That’s a good question! I wish I could somehow tell my younger self to have more confidence. I feel like it took me a long time to realize that I could follow my true dream of being an artist and a lot of that was because I didn’t really have confidence in myself. I know a lot of people suffer from imposter syndrome and it’s something I have been battling with all of my life. I have worked hard to try to overcome this, mainly by having a determination to succeed. So I now will say yes to the things I would have shied away from in the past. Even though I still feel terrified doing certain things like public speaking, I know that it helps me to share my ideas and my art with the world. So maybe I would tell my younger self to practice public speaking more!
What would you say is your biggest goal for this year?
This year my goal is to work on balance. I am slowly getting into a routine of spending parts of my year making new work and other periods where I am exhibiting and selling. This year I have decided that I would like to spend more time in the creation part so I can truly progress my ideas. I have several long-term goals including producing a book at some point and I know I won't be able to work towards these aims unless I have enough dedicated time shooting on location and in my studio. Allowing that time feels like a gift to me and my future artist self.