I dove into the deep end and resurfaced with a cool story to share about my underwater adventures, thanks to local photographer Andrew Lim.
Andrew Lim – versatile photographer, rock climber and TEDx speaker – is a force to be reckoned with. You would’ve spotted his works for River Safari, SilkAir and SK-II, aside from his art featuring popular personalities like Benjamin Kheng, Paul Foster and many others. So when I got the chance to pose for the man behind Drewperspectives, of course I leapt at it.
The words “underwater photography” feel quite intimidating, especially if you’re someone like me with little to no experience in modelling. That’s exactly why I needed something like this to throw me into the deep end (brace yourself for more water puns!) and shake things up. So, buckle up as I take you on my underwater modelling adventure and chat with Andrew about his journey.
How it began: Dipping my toes in…
In preparation for the shoot, I looked through Andrew’s portfolio. I was met with gorgeous, colourful silhouettes – they played with light that spilled into the aquatic surroundings, making the models look ethereal. Wow. I can’t do much with modelling but I trust that the man behind that lens can make me look good.
On a cloudy day, I headed to the swimming pool with my two chosen dresses in hand. The team had requested me to bring long, flowy and bright clothes but my wardrobe fell short (literally). Nevertheless, Andrew could appreciate and envision my two picks working, so we were good to go!
Please don’t rain on our parade
Andrew was initially sceptical about the picture quality as we were met with a dim sky and rain-threatening clouds. We hoped to make the best of what nature would allow us and exploit every ray of sunlight whenever the clouds departed. As we slowly waded into the water, I tried to get used to the cold by dipping into the pool repeatedly until my body adapted to the temperature.
Andrew explained to me the necessary breathing techniques to sink onto the floor to pose while avoiding the buoyancy bobbing me up to the surface. Under his patient guidance and counting, I managed to get it right the first time and did a small victory dance in my head!
Striking a pose is harder than you think
Time to do the scary modelling bit. It was quite the challenge to control the direction of my body and the way it contorted. I didn’t want to look cartoonish in the process. But it was a welcoming stimulation and it was thrilling when I finally got the hang of it. I’ve always been in love with water and the art of dance, so eventually I was confident enough to try incorporating some contemporary moves. Sadly enough, they ended up looking very different from the actual techniques, and were far from recognisable. But hey, I tried.
Thankfully, Andrew was very encouraging. His comments really kept me going to get the best possible pictures. With minimal sunlight, the minute those rays peeked, we had to dive in and get into action. This added constraint actually made it an exhilarating experience. His consistent feedback, ideas and camera magic for posing got us some really good snaps that made me go, “That can’t be me!” It ended with me grinning from ear to ear because, yeah, I just did that!
So, would I recommend this experience? 10/10, absolutely. It definitely leaves an impact and I had a whale of a time. For those who seek out-of-the-ordinary activities, put this on your bucket list. It helped me truly appreciate the natural movements of my body and nature’s influence on it, resulting in some pretty cool photos that freeze time and motion underwater.
Want to know the man behind the lens? I talk to Andrew about how he got into this exciting world of underwater photography and his journey so far.
You ventured into serious photography with Drewperspectives, which specialises in a wide range of commercial photography services. What drove you to pick up a camera in the first place?
Interestingly, it wasn’t because I was interested in photography, not at all. I just wanted to do some storytelling. When I was a kid, I geeked out over fish. Strange, right? I really love nature, but specifically marine life. I started diving at the age of 12 or 13. That totally blew my mind.
When I was 17, I had the privilege of diving with a close family friend. His name is William Tan and he’s a world-renowned underwater photographer. After diving with him, I saw the way he brought his cameras down and how he would spend an entire hour shooting. Seeing his photos just blew me away. I started with photography underwater straight up – just dove straight into the hardest form of the art. It’s really just because I wanted to share my passion for marine life.
You’ve done some wildly interesting shoots. What are some difficulties you face when you’re out on location?
There are so many. You’re shooting fish, wildlife, or people, and there are a lot of different precautions to take. If you’re shooting wildlife, that means you’re diving out into the ocean – of course, safety is your priority. You need to be a certified and very confident diver – so many elements aren’t under your control.
In Singapore, I shoot people in the swimming pool. It’s super controlled. No one’s going to drown. But of course, you need to still have that plan B. I had a client who fainted underwater. She didn’t declare that she had fainting spells, so that was very dangerous.
Countless uncertain factors seem to be part of what you do. What’s been the biggest lesson?
I learned to be extra sensitive to everything because I started out shooting underwater. No, let me correct myself. I started out shooting fish. Haven’t talked to them as they’re very easily scared of people! You need to read their body language and approach them slowly. With shooting people in the water, communication is super important – reading the body language and stuff like that. This has helped me in every other aspect of my photography journey especially now that I’m into boudoir photography.
Initially, I was quite a purist. I only wanted to shoot fish, but I found joy in shooting people. When I started shooting people underwater, I was like, wow, this is really nice. Especially seeing how happy they are with the photos after that. It gives you that sense of affirmation, right? That’s how I transitioned into it.
What do you enjoy most about the underwater photography experience?
Photos aside, it’s the experience itself. It’s really not just a photo shoot. It can be a very good bonding session, especially when it comes to couples that shoot together. It’s hard for couples to find new experiences. So I literally throw them into the deep end. You have to find a way to work with each other, to help each other out.
You’ve worked with big names like River Safari and SK-II. Aside from commercial shoots, are there passion projects you’ve enjoyed?
The most recent one is The Lamest Apocalypse. I shot Benjamin Kheng, the singer and songwriter, who’s a good friend of mine, and Syrena, Singapore’s first mermaid. I created a plastic ocean and [in which they were] tangled up – to bring to light our use of single-use plastics and how it will destroy the earth. We won’t die by a cool zombie apocalypse; we’ll die from the lamest apocalypse that is plastics.
Another marine life-centric one was this project I did for an anti-shark fin campaign [Behind Every Bowl]. I flew Victoria Cheng and Paul Foster to Bali to model for me. We actually posed with real finless sharks. There’s this little story to it: basically it was a wedding photoshoot and they posed with the finless sharks in their hands underwater, looking all happy, which is a bit messed up. But at the same time, it represents every other Chinese wedding out there where they’re happily holding a bowl of shark fin soup.
For personal projects, you can do anything you want to do. You have the freedom to express and explore. It’s in your full control and that’s what’s nice about it.
Can you share more about other aspects of your photography, like boudoir?
I love to dabble in very niche subjects I feel strongly for. Boudoir photography was something I never wanted to do. I’d already established a brand for Drewperspectives. I feared that would ruin or tarnish my reputation because the boudoir scene in Singapore is still [considered] very taboo. It wasn’t until a client of mine asked me to do some photos for her. She was like, “I want to capture my youth; I’m going to grow old someday and I’m at my prime right now. It’s nice to have some photos to remember myself by.”
So I began to learn more about the industry and my clients. I realised a lot of them come to me because they have insecurities and body image issues – unfortunately more often than not caused by their own partners. It’s very inspiring because these women are coming to me in their most vulnerable state. They’re showing me that they really want to push through it and find the part of them they think they’ve lost – or find a way to love themselves more. I think it’s so beautiful and meaningful. It’s so empowering.
Finally, what’s been the highlight of your journey so far?
I’ve been shooting for 13 years. A peak for me would be my book, which was published when I was 21. I donated part of the proceeds to charity because I wanted to help kids whose parents were in prison. That got me on different platforms like TEDx, and then-President Tony Tan invited me to meet him, so it was all quite nice. That’s been a big milestone in my career. It’s what kicked everything off.
It truly was an experience of a lifetime doing the unique shoot with Andrew and chatting with him. Here’s to underwater adventures and making daring choices!