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Alix Martinez's Underwater Kids Portraits

Alix Martinez takes intriguing shots of kids underwater in her latest photo project.

| Professional Interviewed

Alix Martinez is a kids fashion photographer based in New York who's produced some rather spectacular images of kids playing sports and doing what they love, but from an underwater perspective. Here, we find out more about Alix and how she created these wonderfully imaginative images. 

Alix Martinez's Underwater Kids Portraits  : Alix Martinez

Image © Alix Martinez

Tell us a bit about yourself - how did you get into photography? 

As a child, I always had a camera on me - small instant ones, to 35mm, and then medium formats in college. I ended up majoring in digital imaging in school and focusing more on the computer aspect of photography. I loved being able to manipulate images and take them a step further whether it be in the dark room or on the computer.

When I moved to NYC I worked at a retouching house and then moved to Hearst Magazines where I retouched all the Cosmopolitan, Marie Clare and Harpers Bazaar magazine covers.

I got pretty tired of working on everyone else's photographs, so I decided to go back to my roots of photography and start shooting again. I began working as a still life photographer, but then had children, so I lost interest in still life and started only photographing Kids. Since working at many magazines I feel like I developed my eye for fashion, light and an energy that I was drawn to, so I focused on portraits, kids fashion and underwater photography.

Alix Martinez's Underwater Kids Portraits  : Alix martinez

Image © Alix Martinez


What inspired you to create a series of underwater images? 

The water project was born around 4 years ago- and it came to life as I tend to get bored very easily, and I love a good challenge. I also think the way water photographed had a fine art appeal. So why not put some children in there and some creative ideas - and make it even more challenging.  I love it so much- as it incorporates a bit of fashion, a whimsical feel, and fine art into one. 


Talk us through the process of taking these photos - is it difficult to get your subjects into position under the water?

I start off telling the child how to breathe and hold their breath, as when most children hold their breath, their faces are all puffy, so I teach them to hold their breath on the inside and less in their mouths. Once we get into the water, I tell them to think graceful and not to do any dog paddling as the arms and feet don’t look good in some of the swimming positions.  

We both go down into the water at the same time, and come up, I give more instruction in regards to positions, and then shoot away.

Alix Martinez's Underwater Kids Portraits  : Alix Martinez

Image © Alix Martinez


Sports that are usually played on dry land are represented by you under the water. What are you trying to get across with these images?

Kids are their happiest being in water and when they are into their activity whether it is ballet or soccer. It was fun combining the two elements- the children have a blast wearing their costumes in the water, as it is usually a first. I tend to like the images where you would see a child in the air kicking a ball or jumping up high, as the water gives you that floating look. 

You work a lot with kids - there are some fantastic lifestyle images. Do they take a lot of direction or do you take a more freestyle approach with them?

It really depends on the child. Some are more outgoing (my favorites) and some children are shy, and I need to talk to them a bit more, and make them feel comfortable, but my goal is always to have fun, and for the children to have fun, as it shows in the photograph.

Alix Martinez's Underwater Kids Portraits  : Alix Martinez

Image © Alix Martinez


How much of the image do you plan beforehand?

I ask my clients what their children are into, and then we go from there, or I think, what have I not shot, and then try to come up with a concept shoot and hire a model.

What has been the defining achievement in your career so far?

I feel them almost every month! Every time I truly make a client happy, or I have an 'ah ha!' moment of clarity, is always pretty amazing. I was on NBC and Huff Post in regards to my underwater images and that was pretty wonderful too!

Alix Martinez's Underwater Kids Portraits  : Alix Martinez

Image © Alix Martinez


Is there a particular image that you’re really proud of?  

I would have to say most of it, as each shoot, was pretty challenging in its way, so I am always thrilled to get one really great shot from each shoot.

If you could give 3 top tips to someone wanting to have a go at underwater photography, what would they be?

  • Try with a small disposable camera first.
  • Work your way up with the smaller cameras that you can buy housings for- like the Fujifilm cameras.
  • Keep practicing if you really love it, as this takes a bit of patience and time.
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