Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, April 9, 1999

Photo by Dorys Foltin
Water is not just a backdrop, but a lens for Dorys Foltin.
Her photo exhibition opens tonight.

Big dive into
water for fashion

Aquatic visions color
artist's images

By Nadine Kam
Features Editor


CAREER guidance counselors can usually point ocean lovers toward some obvious directions such as marine biologist, lifeguard or pro surfer.

Dorys Foltin's love of the water could have led her down those paths, but she wasn't particularly interested in fish, rescuing humans from surf or catching waves. What interests her is fashion, and she's created a niche of her own by diving straight into the unknown world of underwater fashion photography.

It was in her landlocked hometown of Vienna, Austria, that she got the idea of using water as a medium for her surreal creations.

Photo by Chris McDonough
A portrait of the artist -- photographer Dorys Foltin proves
she can hold her breath with the best of her
underwater models.

Her work is the subject of an exhibition that opens tonight at Atmosphere Gallery.

"I have a background in fashion and makeup and I was fed up with the way, in fashion photography, everything was the same. There was one style and everyone copied. It was all Bruce Webber or Avedon, and it was very beautiful, but I think everyone should develop their own style."

Water had sometimes served as a backdrop for photography, but Foltin had never seen fashion shot below the surface. She started experimenting with a disposable Kodak underwater camera, graduating to better equipment since then.

In 1995, she decided to move to New York to pursue her career, but she had moved there in the winter and found the city too cold. That's when she arrived in Hawaii.

"I was ready for a big change. I like challenges, and living on the other side of the world from my home country was a challenge.

"I'm glad I mad the decision. Hawaii gave me a lot of things. I've developed and polished my craft. I've learned so much."

And, there's an abundance of people willing and able to serve as underwater models.

"I've never had any problems here. People who grow up here live with water. They're like fishes. In Europe, it's quite different.

"It's a very big task for models. They have to hold their breath, open their eyes, flip in ways that might be uncomfortable. They can't have problems with their ears or eyes. They have to act, they have to pose.

"If the model doesn't feel comfortable you can see it in their expressions. They look like this," she said, puffing out her cheeks like a puffer fish, "Or they look bitter."

And while working underwater allows her to capture intense color, reflections and buoyancy, from a commercial point of view, it's not an easy sell to designers of anything but swimwear.

"They don't want to get their clothes wet. I tell them, 'It's only water. If it rains it's the same thing.' "

She's shot hair for Paul Brown, and another local company brave enough to take the plunge was Masako Formals. For the formal wear company, Foltin photographed a bride dressed in white gown, completely submerged. But is she on the pool's bottom or strolling up a side wall? It's hard to tell and Foltin won't explain what's going on.

"It's a puzzle. I like it when people look at it a little more, get more connected."


On View

Bullet Exhibit: "Aqua Blue," aquatic imagery by Dorys Foltin
Bullet When: Opens with a reception from 6 to 10 p.m. tonight; continues through April 30
Bullet Where: Atmosphere Gallery, 1109 Nuuanu Ave. (next to Indigo restaurant)
Bullet Admission: Free
Bullet Call: 255-9012

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