It was a still night and, despite the day being hot and humid, or maybe because of it, the darkness felt tepid and clear. The stars shone brilliantly against the black sky, and the moon was round and full, its reflection cast over the sea in front of us. With no other light in sight, I sat on the empty beach, listening to the lapping waves, daring to breathe in the stillness. Finally, I walked to the water’s edge and waded in to my knees. Imagine my surprise when each step caused a short, dazzling display of glittering light that trailed off into the depths — this was my first experience with bioluminescence and, coupled with the scene both ahead and above me, it was nothing short of magical.

That night nearly a decade ago in the Gili Islands near Lombok, Indonesia, is something that I will never forget. I’ve always been drawn to the sea for its dualistic qualities — it can be both beautiful and ugly, peaceful and raging, telling and secretive. It can provide sustenance and rejuvenation, yet it can also bring death. But that night, in that place, I got a sense for something I could only call “playful mysteriousness.”

In this collection of composites, I try to recreate that feeling of playful mysteriousness, but also explore my long-standing theme of identity, or perhaps the lack of such a thing. These female characters, being of both land and sea, don’t really belong anywhere. Yet despite their lack of place, they each emulate one strong, overarching state of being that, I believe, is part of every human experience, at one time or another.

concept, marine photography, compositing by Erika Fisher
underwater portraits by Engin Akyurt