By Sarah Dion-Marquis
Photography courtesy of Tri Kiet Vuong
An internationally acclaimed photographer, armed with a Nikon D200, a scuba fin, a diving mask and strobe lights, spent several days shooting seven experienced swimmers, who are first-time models, in an underwater environment in Edmonton.
”My focus was on catching the right moment,” said Tri Kiet Vuong, who’s been in the business for over two decades. ”It was the most challenging shoot of my career.”
It wasn’t an easy task for the models either, who had to hold their breath and try to look natural.
Among them were the national swim team competitor Mike Vanden Ham, swimmer and coach Diane Connors, and 21-year-old twin sisters Samara and Meaghan Hipkin, who eye a spot on the national synchronized swimming team for the 2012 Olympics.
The Edmonton-based sisters participated in one or two photoshoots every month during the winter and spring.
‘’It was a lot of fun,” said Meaghan Hipkin. “Not everyone gets to do something like this.”
For another model, it was the fulfillment of a girl’s dream. Diane Connors wore a mermaid tail for the shoot, the same one that Edmonton-based Alisha Schick of Suka Design, who’s planning to expand her clothing line to Toronto and Vancouver next year, had adapted to her body.
Their hard work paid off. At a banquet and silent auction that took place on Nov.27, 16 pictures were sold for a total of $10,000, which will go towards the purchase of equipment for the Edmonton’s Scona Pool users. All underwater photos were taken in the 52-year-old aquatic facility in order to keep it open. The pool’s fate is uncertain, as city council wants to close the facility, which needs $4.5-million worth of repairs over the next three years.
Kirby Feng, volunteer swim coach and scuba instructor for the last 13 years, has vowed to do everything in his power to ensure the Scona Pool’s survival. The art of fashion would be his way to voice his opinion, as well as the point of view of the 50,000 backers who use the pool every year. Many of them are connected to the Strathcona High School’s successful 180-member swim team.
Their first-hand experience in modelling world was not over after the photoshoots.
In early November, Kirby Feng and the Save Scona Pool Action Team managed to draw about 500 spectators at the pool for an exhibition and fashion show, featuring clothing and jewelry by Alberta-based designers Jessica Halabi, Sid Neigum, Melyssa Nielsen of Melncoly Designs and Erin Ignacio of John James Jewelry.
While Edmonton-based models walked the catwalk on the side of the pool, Hipkin sisters and Connors were warming up in the pool prior to their performance. Then, for an impressive, if oxygen-aided, five minutes, the audience mostly saw six dancing legs above the surface of the water, showing off a distinctively choreographed aquatic version of a fashion show. The swimmers’ arms, meanwhile, were furiously churning.
On the side of the pool, far from the spotlight, organizer Kirby Feng stood silently.
He had no doubt that the models and swimmers had caught the attention of the cheering crowd gathered around the pool. But he was already thinking about the next step to take to ensure the Scona Pool funding never dries up.