Underwater model Ivana Orlovic has been featured in some of the most recognisable images of recent times, but on the other side of the lens the Serbian diver is a talented photographer in her own right. We chatted to her about modelling, shooting and travelling. Photographs courtesy of Ivana Orlovic and Janez Kranjc
Q: How did you first get into diving?
A: I was only eight years old when I first started diving because my uncle was one of the owners of a scuba-diving club. I have not stopped ever since. Diving became my passion, career and the greatest adventure of my life.
Q: What came first: modelling, or being a photographer?
A: Somehow, both happened at the same time. However, as I grew as a model, I have become a better photographer as well. As a photographer, I have started to better sense where and how I should position myself in space, how the frame should look, where should the light come from…
Q: Photographs featuring you are among the most instantly recognisable out there. You have a very distinctive style, and the shots are always impossibly clear and sharp. What is your secret to curating your “look”?
A: Thanks for these kind words! Every model knows that balance is the key for a clear photo. If the silt comes up, there is no chance of having a good photo. After so many years of diving, I have learned to be perfectly buoyant and to simply freeze myself inside a frame, especially when we are doing photos with sea creatures as the main protagonists.
Q: Which do you prefer: being the model, or being the photographer?
A: Someone would think that being a model is easy – you just stay in one place and be photographed. Unfortunately, it is much more complicated. Often you dive in a strong current, cold water or low visibility… Nevertheless, we always have the same goal, to produce good work from every dive. That is why we need a lot of patience and effort. Having all of that considered, I sometimes prefer to take a camera and use it to shoot models or underwater surroundings myself.
Q: You have worked with several big-name brands in the past, and currently shoot for Mares. What is the biggest challenge when you are shooting images for manufacturers?
A: As Mares Brand Ambassadors, Janez Kranjc and I must use our photography to send a message about a certain product and, at the same time, avoid making it too intrusive, but creative and original. That is the hardest part. The world is flooded with magnificent underwater photos and far more beautiful models than me.
Q: You spend a lot of time on the road visiting exotic locations. Which are some of your favourite destinations, and why?
A: Raja Ampat – best experience as a photographer because of the blackwater night dive; Cuba – diving with crocodiles; and South Africa, where I had a chance to dive with great white sharks. However, apart from those beautiful sites around the world I also love diving in my country, in a crystal-clear River Drina, or a lake in front of our diving centre in Belgrade. Although sometimes the visibility is low, this lake is full of lovely inhabitants, which I enjoy making part of my photos. Little freshwater jellyfish, turtles, pike… I simply enjoy diving, so every time I get under water, a smile suddenly appears on my face.
Q: What was your most memorable diving experience?
A: The moment when the Caribbean reef shark decided to have a taste of my foot while I was a model in a dress, without a mask.
Q: On the flipside, what is your worst diving memory?
A: Every job has its risks. I have many diving hours behind me, so a few uncomfortable situations had to happen. One of those was when in Spain, during the training day at the European Underwater Photography Championships, I was taken in an unknown direction by a current. Fortunately, I managed to grab a rock and hold on to it, keeping my camera safe simultaneously. After some time, a boat appeared and picked me up.
Q: What does the future hold for Ivana Orlovic?
A: I sincerely hope to dive for a lot more time because I am fascinated by the lack of knowledge we possess about underwater inhabitants. I enjoy exploring and learning. If I had one more life, I would certainly be a marine biologist.
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