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Unique Personal Branding Photos: An Inspiring Underwater Photoshoot

Disability meets creativity & storytelling in underwater photos

Creating unique personal branding photos is always an enjoyable challenge, but my recent photoshoot with Mark Hunter was extraordinary. At 72 and wheelchair-bound, Mark’s vision for his marketing shots was both ambitious and inspiring. He wanted to showcase his multifaceted persona—speaker, writer, and bonsai lover—through underwater photography.

Mark, a professional public speaker and trainer, approached me with the goal of having marketing photos that would set him apart. His clear vision and enthusiasm were contagious, and I was excited to bring his ideas to life in my Noosa pool studio.

An underwater photoshoot entails technical complexity mixed with the unpredictability of water, and many dashes of inventiveness. But this shoot had an added layer of challenge. Thankfully, Mark is a competent swimmer, and water is where he enjoys full freedom of movement.

There is a remarkable freedom that comes from being in water.


Mark had a water-skiing accident in 1974 which resulted in being paralysed (Incomplete Tetraplegia). Since then, he has been active in many fields of work and advocacy for those with a disability.

Here are some of the final images…

Lessons from Raising Bonsai

Mark’s love for bonsai was one of the central themes. He wrote a book, Voice of the Bonsai: A Conversation on Leadership, and he owns some 30 bonsai.

He brought an artificial bonsai tree as a prop for the shoot. During pre-shoot experimentation, he discovered that the bonsai bobbed on the water instead of hovering below the surface. To solve this, Mark added some concrete to the pot to weigh it down, and attached a clear fishing line. Mark’s nephew, Nick, who assisted us above water, held the fishing line so that the bonsai was in position close to the water’s surface.

Mark struck a thoughtful pose inspired by Rodin’s “The Thinker,” embodying the wisdom he shares in his public speaking.

He wrote this poem (haiku) to go with the bonsai finished image:

In quiet water
Man, and Bonsai share wisdom:
Silent, deep learning.

Through his work with bonsai trees, Mark has learned much about himself, others, and the vital role that differences play in our lives. He believes there is no tree in the world more loved or better understood than a bonsai.


Edge Dweller

Mark suggested incorporating the concept of “an edge” to symbolize his commitment to living life with a disability on the edge. We used the drop-off from the shallow end to the deep end of the pool to create this effect. The visual metaphor of Mark at the edge of the pool perfectly illustrated his philosophy of pushing boundaries and embracing challenges.


The Writer’s Craft

To represent his writing, we incorporated actual pages of Mark’s work. Different paper stocks were tested for their underwater resilience. On shoot day, Nick carefully placed the papers into the pool, one by one, allowing them to dance with the water’s movement while I photographed them.

I photographed Mark separately, and created the composite image in post-production.

This image is highly relevant to both the writer and the speaker, as it emphasises the importance of keeping the message at the forefront of an artist’s mind. The message is symbolised by the gold piece of paper.


Defying Limitations

In the deep section of my pool, at 2.4m, we aimed to show that Mark is not limited by the wheelchair.

The first image speaks of my not being defined by the wheelchair, even though it is an essential part of my life. The second image speaks of my capacity to seek out that which I want to achieve when my thinking is not limited by what I cannot do physically. The third image cries out, “See me, not the chair!”


The Art of Speaking

This setup highlights Mark’s expressive poses, central to his identity as a speaker.

Initially we thought the shallow section of my pool wouldn’t fit Mark’s height, but if we moved to the deep section of the pool the reflections would be high up and out of frame. By removing the wheelchair’s seat cushion, and posing with a slight lean, Mark ensured his head was fully underwater. Nick assisted by giving Mark a gentle downward push to get him into the perfect position.

I loved what Liz was able to create in this series. Each image speaks volumes!


Rid Yourself of Constraints
Be Prepared
What you can do, you can do…

This was the final setup of the day, and it’s evident that Mark is comfortable and in his element. I photographed the jacket in the shallow end of the pool, and created this composite. It’s my favourite image from the portfolio: I love the compositional balance between the elements, Mark’s quirky smile, the pose of the jacket, the pop of colour in the tie and its jaunty wind-swept look. But what I enjoy most is how the meaning and story of the portrait can be interpreted in many ways, evolving each time you view it… and isn’t that what makes a portrait truly memorable?

I’m honoured that a print of this image received a Silver With Distinction award at this year’s Australian Photographic Prize, an annual national and international photography competition. It’s wonderful to see the creativity, collaboration and effort behind this image has been recognised by a jury of my peers.

The image has multiple messages. It tells many stories, and I will be able to use it and all the others in many ways in my speaking, my writing and my thinking.

underwater photographer and client in the pool studio, Noosa

Mark’s experience and the resulting images are a testament to the power of creativity and collaboration. His willingness to embrace the unique challenges of an underwater photoshoot has resulted in a stunning portfolio of personal branding images that truly sets him apart.

I had a remarkable experience working with Liz. I was stepping out of my comfort zone doing this, and was uncertain in a number of ways. Liz was professional, understanding and creative in her work. The photos, that were the output of her work are nothing short of stunning. Somehow Liz got inside of my head and read what I was after. On top of that, she added her own substantial expertise to create my portfolio of images. Those who know me well have been glowing in their praise. I would highly recommend Liz if you are after a photographer who can reflect who you are at the deepest of levels.

This photoshoot highlights the endless possibilities of underwater photography. It was an honour to help Mark bring his vision to life, creating unforgettable images that celebrate his personality and achievements.


See the full range of my work in my underwater portraits portfolio

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