Cover of 2020 Pola St Barths Luxury Travel Guide
It’s no mistake that Hugh Arnold’s photographs resemble classical paintings.
Creatively, he draws from a compendium of sources: Michelangelo’s frescos, the Baroque compositions of Peter Paul Rubens, Rodin’s writhing bronze figures, and Gustave Dore’s ominous, symbolist creations. In examining his underwater series, it’s easy to forget that Arnold’s subjects are not angels in flight.Suspended in space, every gesture appears effortless. The way an arm flexes when it is reaching for something or the luxuriating arch of a woman’s back as she stretches. But, underwater, every motion is an act of resistance; Arnold’s actors push, caress, and careen. They fight and embrace. Each image, a mini- drama unto itself.
Rodin once wrote, “I invent nothing, I rediscover,” and, in a way, this series does feel like a rediscovery. Wielding archetypal symbol sets, Hugh Arnold’s photographs draw an unmistakable lineage between primordial history and the present, creating narrative dreamscapes that seem to surface from forgotten memories. Excavating his own experiences alongside this idea of a collective past, Arnold’s work is at once autobiographical and universal. Agua Nacida (water birth) represents the beginning, the nascent stages, the womb. Agua Vida (water life): experience, conflict. Agua Profunda (deep water): the subconscious, the unknown, and what is to come.
In documenting the submerged human body, Arnold manages to express something essential about being human — a subtle energy that stirs beneath our skin. “I am beginning to touch on elements of abstraction,” writes Arnold.
“I now have the armour, momentum, and visual confidence to delve into the surreal and the unconscious, which has no limits... to open these doorways and reveal what is on the other side"
Hugh Arnold Voice, 2016 Limited edition (Edition of 3) Lamda c-print; signed & numbered (40 x 117.50 in / 101.60 x 298.45 cm)
Hugh Arnold’s underwater photographs are a metaphorical map of human development — what it means to age, to love, to connect, and to struggle. Elemental in material and theme, his works do more than document bodies in motion. They capture bodies in resistance.
Born in Chester, England and trained as an actor, Hugh Arnold began his photographic career in the fashion world, producing work for publications such as Vogue, Tatler, Conde Nast Traveller, and Glamour and shooting worldwide cosmetic campaigns After many years in the field, Arnold resolved to create fine artwork independent of commercial constraint. Drawing from his past on the stage and love of diving, he orchestrates his subjects into complex and emotional underwater compositions — impossible to produce on land. Today, his large- scale photographic prints enrich private collections around the world, from Washington to Moscow, Los Angeles to Sydney. He exhibits regularly in Paris, London and the US.