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 high end publications such as Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire, Tatler, Conde Nast Traveller, and Glamour and shooting worldwide cosmetic campaigns for many of the worlds biggest brands, L’Oreal, Wella, Pantene, Max Factor, Nivea, La Perla etc.
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 London to Moscow, Los Angeles to Sydney.
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.”
Hilton | Asmus Contemporary presents a stunning three-part series by fine art photographer Hugh Arnold, brought together as a single body of work.
In underwater compositions reminiscent of dreams, Arnold investigates life, death, and rebirth in three movements: “Agua Nacida,” “Agua Vida,” and “Agua Profunda.” Each chapter within the collection is distinct, yet interconnected, representing life’s journey from beginning to end. Shot in open and unspoiled seas, Hugh Arnold’s photographs are uniquely stirring, wielding a lush archetypal vocabulary that conjures shared primordial knowledge. Combining classical compositions and underwater photography, Hugh Arnold’s three-part series takes a dive into uncharted seas…
In addition to the large-scale photographs, Hugh Arnold has compiled his work into a breathtaking 368-page book, which takes us on a journey to explore the ocean and ourselves in a new way. The book contains a collection of over 175 stunning, original colour photographs, as well as texts by Stella Thomas, Founder and President of the Global Water Fund and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, author of the acclaimed Gift from the Sea.
In an interview with HUNGER TV in London, Arnold stated, "I wanted Agua Nacida to span the symbolic transition from the cocoon of the womb, to carefree childhood, the discovery of adolescence, the sensuality of womanhood and the pain of birth, depicting each stage in the process through physical actions. I realized that I was touching something much more profound than I set out to do because everything that I had done up to this point professionally had included artifice and ego in some form or other. The moment you submerge yourself in water, no matter who you are, the ego disappears and you touch the true essence of your nature. It’s almost like going back to the beginning, being reborn, hence the title of the book – Agua Nacida ie. water born. The images take us on a parallel journey beneath the surface of the sea. Our souls’ hidden waters come from a powerful, pure and deep place that I am only now starting to understand. We are all water born...."