Written by: Staff Tuesday, September 13th, 2011 .
For his latest exhibition of new work, the Austrian photographer, Andreas Franke, selected the same location in which it was shot: a sunken ship 100-feet beneath the sea. The setting of this unusual art show, titled The Vandenberg: Life Below The Surface, is the deck of the USNS Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg, which lies in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Last year, while on a diving trip to photograph the sunken naval ship, Franke was inspired to create a series of composite photos that juxtapose the Vandenberg scenery with various activities that normally take place above sea level. Since August 4, 2011, these photographs have been on display for anyone with the appropriate diving gear and know-how to enjoy.
Andreas Franke is one half of Staudinger-Franke, a photography studio based in Vienna, Austria. Franke describes his work as the construction of “illusionistic worlds,” which he achieves through a combination of photography, postproduction, and CGI. These worlds – which have been featured in ad campaigns for clients such as Coca-Cola, Ben & Jerry’s, and Heineken – are set in our everyday surroundings, but integrate many playful surprises and visual tricks. After his diving trip to photograph the Vandenberg, Franke returned to Austria and began to create the composite images that would return to their point of origin one year later.
The photographs combine images of the sunken ship and the quotidian activities of past times. In one photograph, a tradesman in cap and coveralls casually eats his lunch on the ship’s deck as schools of fish swim by in the background; in another, ballerinas use the deck rails for their training. The photographs are intriguing for the nonchalance with which the various subjects perform their tasks underwater, but even more interesting is the location in which they must be viewed. If you want to see the exhibition, you must charter a boat out to the site, which is about seven miles south of Key West. Then you must dive down 100 feet to where the photographs are installed on just a small section of the 523-foot-long vessel.
In order to exhibit these images in the ocean, each of the 12 photographs has been placed between two sheets of Plexiglas, framed with stainless steel, and sealed with silicone. They were then attached to the ship with heavy duty magnets that allowed for easy installation and no damage to the ship. This last point is important because the ship didn’t sink on its own, but was intentionally sunk to create an artificial reef that would provide a habitat for local marine life. The sinking of the Vandenberg was itself quite a show and fortunately it was well documented with photographs and video.