Underwater snaps | Kris Micallef

Well-travelled and prolific Maltese photographer Kris Micallef speaks to us about his upcoming – and largely crowdfunded – project, REGNVM, a series of underwater photographs which will be exhibited at Blitz in Valletta in February with an accompanying book.

Fashion vs art in photography

"For the past years my main interest was fashion photography. I have worked on various fashion editorials for magazines in Malta, Europe and Middle-East, so my background has been highly influenced by everything that makes up this scene. Lately, however, my interest is shifting towards the art 'world'.

"My love for portraiture is present in both my fashion photography and art photography - I haven't moved away from my fascination for the human form. However, I do have to adjust my frame of mind slightly when working in these different 'worlds'. I believe that my personal work is a mix of both art and fashion.

Origins of REGNVM

"REGNVM has helped me grow artistically. It is completely different to any work that I have published and exhibited so far. It is also the first exhibition of mine that I'm launching in Malta, and also my first book.

"Personally, it was a great step to take and I'm very pleased with this body of work. Being a great lover of summer and the sea, I wanted to link my passions together. It started off with an experimental shoot in 2012 which has proved to be very successful - the underwater series titled 'UNDRWTR' which has been exhibited in Ukraine and Netherlands. There was no story behind this project, it was purely experimental.

"As months passed, I wanted to create a story that is inspired by characters I meet everyday, moods, challenges, and the places I visit. This is exactly what REGNVM is about. There is a lot of thought behind every character portrayed in my imaginary underwater kingdom, many reasons and stories, and also several dimensions to it. I'm not restricting the viewers by telling them what is in my mind. I will let the book and the series inspire them to create their own stories and ideas.


Underwater challenges

"The main challenge while working on this project was definitely the weather. When the wind speeds and water currents are significant, it would not be possible to shoot as the visibility would be poor. However, we worked around this and we had quite a number of successful shoots. We worked in various bays around the Maltese Islands. My personal favourite bay was Crystal Lagoon in Comino. The waters are deep, crystal clear and the area is very peaceful and inspiring. Almost magical!

"For this project I had a cocktail of professional models, gymnasts and dancers. Some were more confident in the water than others. Since none of my subjects were experienced with underwater shooting it had to be a bit of a gamble, but to my surprise I would say that most of the shoots that we did for REGNVM were successful.

"I personally did a scuba diving course. It was a fantastic experience and opened so many new opportunities. However in the end I decided not to use scuba for my shoots and free dive instead. Among other reasons, I preferred it as it was not required to go deep when shooting for REGNVM. Of course it was tiring for both the models and myself as it required quite a lot of time of being in the water, holding our breath and swimming for a number of hours sometimes, but in the end the results were very satisfying and worth the sore muscles the day after shooting!


The art of crowdfunding

"When I first heard of crowdfunding I was very excited to see so many interesting and inspiring projects being funded by the public. At first I wasn't sure whether it would work for me, however I decided to give it a try as it was probably my best option to fund my project together with the help of the Malta Arts Fund.

"What I like about crowd funding is that the public is getting something in return for their contribution.

"Locally, the idea of crowdfunding is still very new. Indiegogo gave me 60 days to reach my target amount, and during this period I have pushed my campaign online mainly through Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr and also by word of mouth. Often people would give me a blank look I mention the word 'crowdfunding' and I explain to them what it is and how it works and how whoever contributes will also benefit from it. I personally believe that crowd funding with the power of the internet is one of the most innovative ideas to help artists when funds are needed to realise their projects.

"I'm very pleased that, despite still having over a week to go, my target has been surpassed and still appears to be going strong. The money will be used mainly for the actual printing of the book, fine art prints and framing amongst other minor expenses such as models fees, venue fee, invite prints and so on.

"I believe that my crowdfunding campaign was successful because there is a lot of work put into it. It took several weeks to prepare, and also because the people who contributed in some way or another find my work interesting. Marketing it online on a regular basis played an important role as well as pushing it verbally to friends and clients - the funders of this project."

Click here to learn more about REGNVM's crowdfunding campagin.