A dozen digitally composed photographs were submerged 90 feet below the ocean’s surface, encased in Plexiglas with stainless steel frames and silicone seals.
After sharing habitat with parrot fish, barracudas and Goliath groupers for more than four months in 2011, the art was removed from its unusual exhibit site — the deck of the USNS Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg shipwreck.
The silicone seals did not work perfectly, allowing seawater seepage on the sides of the photos, and the Plexiglas was covered with algae, microorganisms and marine-life skeletons.
But when photographer Andreas Franke saw the results, he was not upset.
“Look how cool it is,” he says. “Now it’s unique. You can’t reproduce this because of the help of Mother Nature.”
Franke’s underwater art can now be seen without SCUBA gear at The Studios of Key West in a free exhibit, Vandenberg Project: The Life Above Refined Below, through Feb. 15.
“But don’t come in here with Windex and paper towels,” says Erin Stover-Sickmen, The Studios’ artistic director.
“Yes, please tell everybody in Spanish and English not to clean them,” Franke says with a smile.
The project began with Franke photographing the sunken Vandenberg in April 2010.
The commercial photographer from Vienna had seen the ship on the cover of a dive magazine, and knew, he says, that it would be the perfect “theatrical stage” for his new art.