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The first underwater modeling session I did earlier this year was daunting. I hadn't been in the water in many years, nevermind underneath it, trying to hold poses and my breath for extended periods of time. I'm not someone who enjoys being outside, or in direct sunlight, or being cold. I had to do all of these things in order to create the artwork in the Trésor de la Mer collection.

In July of 2020 a friend took me to a spring in Florida at my request. He's an experienced freediver, and his photos he was sharing online were so beautiful that I, an indoorsy city girl, worked up the nerve to ask him to take me with him one day. He obliged, and it was one of the best days I'd had in ages. Everything was beautiful. I kayaked, another thing I never thought I'd do. Manatees swam beneath me. It was exhilarating, and I think of that trip often, and revisit the gratefulness I felt when he showed me some of his world that day.

I can't see without my contact lenses, so everything below the water during that first photo shoot was a blur. Brandon, the photographer who makes all of this come to life, told me there were fish nearby, but I didn't see them, or the luminescent underwater plant life, until he sent me the photos. I was just stunned. All of this breathtaking beauty was surrounding me, and I couldn't see any of it. But I was completely hooked on what we were doing, and I was dying to do it again. It was a different experience than when my friend had taken me to a spring the previous year. I swam that day, but I had my contacts in, and I couldn't get a good suction on my face mask, so no underwater excursions for me that day. This time, knowing what awaited me below the surface, I couldn't wait to get back in the water. Sure, I was frozen solid, shaking, dirty from kicking up silt on the spring floor, but I didn't care. We were creating such beautiful images, and I wanted to share them with everyone. I knew I wanted to do this as much as possible.

The downside is that this is an expensive hobby and I knew I'd need to monetize it in order to justify so many photo shoots, thus was born Trésor de la Mer. As a city girl, I never had an opportunity to try anything like this before. I had no frame of reference, no one around me ever did anything like swim with manatees or go kayaking. It simply wasn't done. I live in the northeast, and nightclubs and restaurants are big business here. No one really cares about the outdoors, especially once it gets cold. I spent my life as a ballet student, then professional dancer and instructor, so my time outside was limited anyway - I needed to be in class, or working on choreography for my students, or in rehearsal at whichever company or production I happened to be dancing for. Doing these photo shoots has opened a door I never thought I'd ever have access to. I'm excited every day about continuing down this path. I want to learn to freedive as well - I'm technically an underwater model, not a freediver. It's been a bit challenging; I've already caught people online mocking me for my inexperience and general lack of knowledge about the craft. But how would I know anything? I didn't even know freediving was a thing until my friend took me to the spring in 2020. Pushing forward when people are laughing at me is something I've done a thousand times before, but it never gets any easier, and it always still hurts to be laughed at when I'm trying to learn something new. I guess everyone feels that way.

I am hoping that the images Brandon and I create through Trésor de la Mer can inspire others to create their own art, whether that art is through photography, ballet, or simply learning more about the life below the water.

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