Daan Verhoeven : “The sea represents home and a completely alien place, as familiar as my own salty tears and as strange as my dreams”
Internationally renowned photographer Daan Verhoeven was in Cyprus for 3 weeks mainly to photograph the Infinity Depth Games in Larnaca. With him, was a group of free world divers in an attempt to break their records in the Infinity Depths competition. Daan chose Cyprus island, also to film a couple of short movies for his youtube channel.
We were looking for a competition to participate in near the end of the year, as my girl and I run a freediving school in Cornwall and our summers are really busy there. We were originally going to Dominica, but this was in 2017, and hurricane Maria stopped those plans. Then we found out that Infinity does a comp in October, so we checked it out, and we loved the organisers and the sea here, so in 2018, we brought a lot of our students and our friends. Then again some more in 2019. Now it’s a bit of a tradition to come here for the Infinity Depth Games.
The sea represents a paradox to me: both a home and a completely alien place, as familiar as my own salty tears and as strange as my dreams.
Though i do parts of my work underneath her surface, she never feels like an office, but often like a playground, sometimes like a battle zone. She gives life and joy as easily as she takes lives and efforts carelessly. She represents to me something much greater than me, and the honour to be part of that, of her, sometimes when we dive.
Underwater photography and rare poses, breaking an apnea record is an endless game. In that we are, as a species, only beginning to discover our aquatic potential. And the science of photography is developing rapidly. And we’ve only explored a tiny part of the ocean. So there’s lots of room to keep playing, yes.
Most of my dangers are man-made: getting hit by boats, or stuck in ghost nets (fishing nets that are lost at sea). Or my own ego: if I dive too deep, too long, and I didn’t ask anyone to watch over me. All man made. Like my dad said: the water itself is innocent – it washes away its own sins.
The most exciting moment in the water. I was photographing reef sharks while freediving off a fishing boat in the Bahamas. The fishing was drawing a lot of attention of the sharks, so I was finally able to get quite close to them. Suddenly my buddy points to my side, and as I turn around a large shape is swimming directly towards me.
This behavior is very unlike reef sharks, and instinctively I hold my ground, make myself as big as I can, and start taking pictures. The shape comes closer, I see its big mouth and teeth, but I can also tell it’s not swimming aggressively, so I hold my position. It comes to about a meter away from me, and then it turns and I can see the stripes on its side – it’s my first time seeing a tiger shark. I’m very excited, as it is a beautiful creature, and I didn’t panic when it tested me.
Me and my wife, divers on dangerous missions... Because we are both very well trained freedivers, and both have a lot of experience with the safety aspects of our sport, I think it is not very dangerous what we do. We take really good care of each other, we don’t take stupid risks, and are very aware of what can go wrong – that way we mitigate most risks.
Fear is a part of the excitetment … I’m always a little scared. I think that’s part of the excitement. When I was a child I was very afraid of water, and it only went away when I learned how to swim underwater, how much fun it was to feel that rush of water over you, and how close it is to flying when you float up.
As an adult, I recognise that fear still in me, and I think it’s a natural respect for something as powerful an element as water. I think if you don’t fear water a little, you probably don’t know water.
Μy next destination… There’s a few films I want to make at home when I get back, but other than that, it’s hard to plan around this pandemic. Hopefully next year will be better, with more events, but this trip to Cyprus was my first in 7 months, and i’ve got no other trips on the agenda so far.
Photos are Daan’s Verhoeven personal choice!