Hannah Fraser, or Hannah Mermaid as she’s known, is a professional underwater performer, full time mermaid, and ocean activist. She created the vocation of ‘Freelance Mermaid’ in 2003, and has been featured worldwide for her ocean conservation and underwater performance art worldwide.
In 2013 She released a short film called ‘Mantas Last Dance’ that propelled Manta Rays into the public eye and helped pass a law to protect mantas worldwide.
Hannah has headlined at Mermaid MegaFest, MerFest, MerMates, MerCon, Asia Dive Expo and many other Mer-centric events, as well as performing at large festivals such as Burning Man, Envision, Symbiosis, Global Eclipse, Lightning in A Bottle, Envision, Beyond Wonderland.
Brett Stanley: [00:00:00] Hannah, welcome to the show.
Hannah Fraser: [00:00:01] Brett, so fun to be on here with you. One of my favorite photographers of all time.
Brett Stanley: [00:00:06] Oh, well you don’t need to say that stuff.
Hannah Fraser: [00:00:08] Yeah, it’s all true. It’s all true.
Brett Stanley: [00:00:12] So the first thing I want to get other, the way it’s probably the main question people have is what is a professional mermaid?
Hannah Fraser: [00:00:18] A professional mermaid for me is someone that has created a full career out of doing okay. Underwater performance art mainly in a tale, and getting gigs such as live performance art, video photography, and basically has the skills to be able to stay underwater, perform underwater indirect with sea life, and make a believable mermaid character.
Brett Stanley: [00:00:43] so you’ve kind of got those three, or maybe more than three hats, but you kind of call yourself an underwater mermaid. Is that just because the, the mermaid kind of idea just encompasses a lot of what you do?
Hannah Fraser: [00:00:55] Yeah. For me, a mermaid is a servant of the sea. It’s literally the word mer meaning. Ocean and the word maid means servant. So for me, it’s all encompassing, being a servant of the ocean and of nature, and whether I’m wearing a mermaid tail or I’m not, or I’m just. You know, underwater performing, all of that is in service to awaken people well too the glory of the underwater world. that beautiful waitlist feeling that you get, get self-expression, female empowerment. And for me, all of those are like signposts. The siren, mythology itself.
Brett Stanley: [00:01:34] Right. So that’s kind of like your, the mermaid is your spirit animal. Like it’s, it’s kind of at the embodiment of everything that you kind of believe in.
Hannah Fraser: [00:01:41] Nailed it.
Brett Stanley: [00:01:42] T hat’s great and so the, I guess the other thing leading from that is how did you even get into that? How did you know that you wanted to be a mermaid?
How did you know that you wanted to spend so much time in the water?
Hannah Fraser: [00:01:53] Yeah, well, I did not grow up near the ocean and I was fairly landlocked as a kid. However, I was always obsessed by mermaids. They would just part of my, my, fantasy world, I guess I created in my head. And as a, a very prolific young artist, I was drawing mermaids from a very young age. And when I was nine years old, I saw the film splash with Daryl Hannah and I thought, Oh my God, this is. It’s fate. Her name’s Hannah. She’s a vegetarian like me, and she’s a real life mermaid, and I thought that is what I want to do. Luckily, I had a mom who was very handy with a sewing machine, so she whipped up this plastic orange tablecloth material tail filled with pillow stuffing in the end, and I spent hours painting little gold scales all over it and then jumped in the pool and it was so nonfunctional.
It was did mortar drown me then to help me swim. But I guess it gave me a really good, crash course lesson in how to handle difficult situations underwater cause that was practically drowning. But I somehow managed to make it work for me in a swim around in that thing for months until it disintegrated.
And I spent a lot of time drawing mermaids as an artist. And it wasn’t until my late twenties when I began modeling. But I went for a casting for an underwater shoot. all these other gorgeous girls could not hold their breath, did not look. Glamorous or composed underwater, and with these skills that I’d picked up in my young years, swimming around in that tail and through yoga and meditation and breath work that I practice throughout my life, I had a natural ability that I didn’t even realize I’ve been cultivating my entire life, and so I got this great job, and from then on it was just a complete passion.
Yeah. For me to be. Photographed underwater and to have that waitlist, beautiful experience inhabiting what it feels like to be a true mermaid.
Brett Stanley: [00:03:49] Cool. That was, just all those skills that you’d been practicing in the pool by yourself suddenly came to be really, really useful for you.
Hannah Fraser: [00:03:58] Yeah. And as I said, I’d also grown up going to do a lot of yoga and meditation and breath work has my mum, wonderful hippie. One woman had taken me to these incredible ashrams in India throughout my childhood. So I’d created all of these skillsets without realizing that they were going to help me in my underwater experience later on in life.
Brett Stanley: [00:04:18] And this was before YouTube and internet sort of kind of learning and stuff as well. So you kinda
Hannah Fraser: [00:04:23] Brett, you’re, are you telling everyone how old we are?
Brett Stanley: [00:04:27] yeah, no, we’re showing our age right now. I think.
Hannah Fraser: [00:04:31] yeah.
Brett Stanley: [00:04:32] do you think that not having those things made it harder for you? Or did you just have to kind of figure these things out for you, like by yourself? Like how did you learn how to sort of, outside of doing the yoga and the breathwork and stuff, was there techniques that you kind of just learned from, from kind of practicing yourself.
Hannah Fraser: [00:04:50] Yeah. It was all self lend. A I truly did have a natural ability. By the time I had my tail on, I’d already spent, spent so much time enjoying underwater, just swimming around, pretending I was a mermaid. So by the time I actually needed to put those skills into practice and had a tail on, I was instantly and natural.
But as far as creating a tail, it was a whole different story. These days you can go online and just find a mermaid tail in any kind of fabric, Silicon fabric, a neoprene. All of these different things are available to just purchase. When I first started this absolutely zero online, and I had to create my whole Memay tail from scratch, from the monofin too, you know, putting flippers on polyethylene boards and sanding them down and putting Silicon with it.
And. Hand sewing, hand painting scales onto these tails. And I remember reaching out to all these different movie houses and people who had made tails for films or photo shoots before. And I got on to Robert, who was the first creator of the splash tail for this films, a splash with Daryl Hannah, and he was one of the only people nice enough to write back to me and tell me how he’d created that tail.
No, unfortunately I did not have $30,000 in a huge movie production to create multiple tales such as they had in that film. But it just was nice to know that the other people out there that were excited enough about creating mermaid tails that were in contact, and gave me inspiration to figure out how to do it myself.
So yeah, it’s been quite a process. And I now have 14 tales that I’ve all done. Self-created. Each one takes about six months to create. Yeah.
Brett Stanley: [00:06:40] That’s incredible.
Hannah Fraser: [00:06:41] definitely a labor of love.
Brett Stanley: [00:06:42] Because I’ve seen your tails and it’s like every scale is hand stitched on. it’s not like it’s a fabric that has been printed with the scales. their actual real individual scales.
Hannah Fraser: [00:06:55] literally six months of solid work for each tail. And these days I do get help. I have people who help become, and so the scales. And then I have, I work in collaboration with amazing Silicon in creation. People who, cocreate the design of the fins with me. So. Using these gorgeous, big, fabulous bins.
yeah. It’s, it’s such a process and each one is so unique and each one has a different, yeah. Personality. There are some that I would, where if I want to go faster, Oh, there are some that are just like amazing on show, you know, showcase the fish colors and you know, you can’t go very fast, but they look fabulous.
But every single one of them is fully functional underwater.
Brett Stanley: [00:07:41] Yeah, that’s amazing. and when you’re speaking about them having different kinds of personalities and, different, specifications, I guess I want to talk about that a little bit later on. in terms of how you choose, what kind of. Tail or what kind of, equipment you use to do your job.
But let’s just finish up with how you have gotten to where you are today with the, ocean, activism and, getting into the more commercial kind of film world as well. Cause I know you’re doing a lot more of that these days.
Hannah Fraser: [00:08:13] Yeah, it’s been, a gradual process and with the activism and ocean conservation, I’ve always been really active and trying to stand up for nature and the planet earth. I remember before I was a mermaid, I dressed up like a fairy and stood out in front of old growth forests in front of me, bulldozers, trying to bring attention to these issues and the effort within the first month of creating my first mermaid tail, I.
Got out on a bridge that was being demolished, that was creating a major hazard for a waterway going to the ocean and got photographed by the local paper for doing this activism. And so I immediately knew that the mermaid persona was a really great, yeah, tool for bringing attention to the ocean conservation and issues that we’re facing with, you know, over fishing.
And, Pollution, and all of these poor animals being where the human species and I continued on. Once we did, once I’d come a professional mermaid, I then utilized persona that they have and went to do things such as, Protest against the dolphin slaughter in Taiji in Japan where we face off the fishermen who were killing dolphins in front of our face.
brutal and intense things I’ve ever seen.
I went to, yeah, I went to a number of international whaling conventions around the world and stay at help stage protests there. we created a large visual petition of thousands of photos of people from around the world holding images of whales and dolphins.
I printed them onto massive. Like meters and meters of banners to take till these different conventions around the world. Okay. I think that having a cause and having a real purpose behind what you do that is beyond your own expression really, helps people to connect. Yeah. To what my message is and, and therefore it gives people a reason to share what I do.
And so it has helped in my. Commercial world as well. and as far as that, I’ve done two movies in the last sort of five years, I think it was, which was scales and, a mermaid tail. Really fun stuff. And, it’s one of my biggest passions actually, is to create a fantasy. And then bring it into the reality.
It’s what I gave a Ted talk on, like how do you take this fantasy world and bring it into this reality to create change? literally get laws changed. I worked with . ocean conservation has Shawn Heinrichs on a number of projects where we were, I’m showcasing how animals and humans can interact peacefully.
And we took a video that we created called mantas last dance to the convention for international trade and endangered species. And we’re able to help get the law changed by getting all of delegates from around the world to stand up in favor of manta rays when are protected. So there’s lots of different ways that you can help, and by creating these beautiful images can then go on to actually enact change around the world.
Brett Stanley: [00:11:20] Yeah, that’s incredible. it was that just that kind of idea of having something that shows humans and these animals interacting in such a beautiful way, just really kind of brought it back to them, how important this was. and what I kind of find is that, as unreal as it is, a lot of these things need to be pushed over the top, like the production value needs to be in there to be able to show people, what these things can actually be like and how they can change their minds.
Hannah Fraser: [00:11:49] it’s difficult for people to connect to these very unusual, strange animals in the ocean if they’re not even someone that’s ever been swimming in the ocean. So to showcase them interacting with a human with really high production value and artistry. It just really brings it home in a different way.
And people can imagine themselves feeling connected to these animals and anything you feel connected to you love. And then when love is there, we can make changes cause people, yeah, take action.
Brett Stanley: [00:12:20] Yeah, totally. And this is something that I find, in my life because, I volunteer at a local aquarium here in Los Angeles called the aquarium of the Pacific, and I’m actually in the tank with the animals doing presentations to the audiences outside.
Hannah Fraser: [00:12:36] That’s so cool.
Brett Stanley: [00:12:37] yeah, it’s a really awesome man.
It’s, it’s such an interesting thing to see the kids when they’re walking through these aquariums, they’re not really connecting. That they’re just looking, basically looking at a big screen with animals that they don’t really know anything about, but it’s not until they see us, divers come down and then start talking to them from inside there that their eyes light up and they like, Oh, this is real.
Like there’s a guy in there, this is so crazy. And then they start listening to what you’re telling them. About how these animals live. And there, you know, how sharks are safe, because I’m feeding one with my hand right now that it’s, it’s just that kind of, you’ve got to find a connection with them somehow.
Hannah Fraser: [00:13:20] Yeah, that’s such a good point, and so perfectly.
Brett Stanley: [00:13:23] to take that a bit further, with this kind of Activision stuff and the stuff you’ve been doing with Sean is incredible. Cause you also did the, was it the, the tiger sharks as well with the body paint.
Hannah Fraser: [00:13:35] Yeah, so Shawn and I went down to The Bahamas and we figured, Hey, we’ve done these really amazing connected videos with manta rays and whale sharks that went viral across the world. But how do we. Do that in a way that is one safe and two evocative and creates a feeling of , fiction and love. Okay, well, one of the most feared predators on the entire planet, and so we were like, well, tiger shocks and shocks in general are being annihilated.
We are killing 100 million sharks every year. That’s 12,000 every single hour. So these guys need our help more than any other animal at this point. So I put my hand up to go down and swim with 17 but tiger sharks in The Bahamas. Without any protective gear, and I was just painted up in a bikini and I was weighted to the bottom of the ocean floor with 12 pounds. Wait. And yeah. Took off the mask, take out the air, hold my breath, and dancing with these incredible beings. And what I found was really amazing because. Out of all the animals that I’ve swum with in the ocean. These were the only ones that came directly up to me for physical contact and they weren’t at all trying to eat me.
I never felt danger. I never felt like they were looking at me like I was food. They were curious, and they seem to actually be . Interested in being tickled on the nose or just like sliding past and having fun physical contact. And to me that just blew my mind because, you know, here we are thinking they’re these Hmm.
Men eating hungry monsters. Yeah. jaws has taught us about and that all they’re doing is just sitting under the water wedding for us to come in and they can eat us and attack us and take our ups off is just so much negative media around these animals.
Experiences I’ve had with ocean animals. So it changed my mind. And then when we put that out into the world, we had like 50 million views in the first 24 hours on TV networks and online, and people just started writing to us saying, Oh my God, you’ve totally changed my whole perspective on sharks. And I used to be scared to go in the ocean and now I’m really interested to check it out.
And. I never even knew about, you know, what was going on with the sharks, and now I want to help. So yeah, it’s a really positive way to get the message across as to use art and activism as One force to change people’s minds.
Brett Stanley: [00:16:13] Oh, totally and I think that’s a really good way to bring us into the more technical side of stuff, because if you’re doing something. Like this where your 2030 feet down and your own weights and you’re on air, you’re on a regulator. What sort of team did you have behind you to make that happen? To make sure that you are safe? I mean, you’ve got an amazing breath hole to start with, which gives the safety guys a lot more time to work with you. But who was there looking out for you in terms of getting you. To be safe and to be able to breathe. And also to some people that were, you know, kind of keeping an eye on the other, on the other animals that were around.
Hannah Fraser: [00:16:52] These adventures underwater when you’re swimming with, you know, potentially deadly animals really do take an extremely experienced team. And I went down there with Jim Eben Athey, who’s one of the most experienced shock divers in the world.
He’s been diving with these guys, tiger beach for 20 years. He knows every single one of those sharks by name. He can tell you about their behavior and he is so comfortable with them. I think he likes them more than humans. So I definitely had the best team available and we went down there. We had about five or six safety guys with us.
I had. Two guys who had down this specifically just dedicated to bringing me air when I needed it. And there was one instance where I signaled for air. I have a specific specific hand signal . . There was a tiger shark kind of going in between us and he, he just kind of waited until the tiger shark had gone past.
And by then I was like, I need so and so. We had a talk afterwards and I said to him, I don’t care if there’s a tiger shark between us. You were going to push that shock out of the way to bring me air because I am holding my breath until I really cannot hold it anymore. And I need you to just respond the second I move.
And he was like 100% on it from then on. He literally did it push tiger sharks out of the way to bring me air. I had such a good team. so we had about four people filming and then another person filming behind the scenes filming and then all of these shock Wranglers and safety guys. So it was. It was definitely a big production. I think we had at least 10 or 12 people down there, most of the days when we were shooting.
Brett Stanley: [00:18:37] And how far from the, from the shore were you? Is this what you, did you have to go out on the boat or are you
Hannah Fraser: [00:18:42] yeah,
Brett Stanley: [00:18:43] sort of shore dive.
Hannah Fraser: [00:18:44] no, it takes a couple of hours at least to drive out on a fast boat to shark tiger beach. So we were living on the boat for a full week and diving every single day. it’s quite remote, so it’s, it’s definitely challenging physically. although I’m a wonderful mermaid, I do get slightly seasick, not awful, but I’m just kind of a bit, yeah.
Offsite, all awake. I was just really average and tied until you get me in the water under, underneath the waves, and then I’m like, hundred percent on fires. Fantastic.
Um, and the poor girl who was . Airbrushing me, which took over two hours every single day. Sometimes multiple times. Was trying to airbrush me on the back of the tiny cramped boat with lots of men on it.
Yeah. With equipment and the wind blowing. And she got really seasick every day, Melissa Hart. So it was not an easy shoot. There was a point where I was so tired. I felt like I had ear infection. My back was out, had to breathe, and I said to Sean, and this is the first time I’ve ever said it, I really don’t think that I can go in the water today.
Brett Stanley: [00:19:48] That’s a big thing for you.
Hannah Fraser: [00:19:50] Yeah, it was, I’ve never said that before. And he was like, alright, let me just help you. He’s an amazing Keela. So he did all of this massage body work on my own back that was out of place. I, I did some healing on my ears and. I got in the water and all the pain just disappeared and I was able to get
It’s true. And it was amazing cause it was that one day where I had to push beyond all my reserves was the one time when I got the full on contact with , the tiger sharks, I was able to put my hand right on its nose and just have this moment of incredible connection.
Brett Stanley: [00:20:24] That’s incredible. And that was when you were quite emotional as well from all the hard work. Yeah.
Hannah Fraser: [00:20:31] was definitely emotional and I had to really push pause because you can’t take that fear and weakness down when you’re working with shocks because they since all of your energy, your frequency that you’re putting out. So I had to just kind of come from . I am strong, I am the alpha, I am directing all of this.
It’s like this matrix moment. You know when they Dodge the bullet and they wheel over backwards, that’s what I was doing with the shocks directing energy.
Brett Stanley: [00:20:58] Yeah, and that’s so funny you say that because the first time I shot with sharks and people was with you and David down in The Bahamas, and I remember being so freaked out by that whole. Situation, and I think it was David was just like, you just have to be calm. If you’re relaxed and calm, then so are they.
And I’m like, what?
Hannah Fraser: [00:21:19] I like how it’s shocks everywhere.
Brett Stanley: [00:21:23] It’s crazy. And it wasn’t until I got into the water because, you know, water is my happy place as it is yours. And it was just that sort of thing of, Oh, this is all good. They just big dogs,
Hannah Fraser: [00:21:34] Yeah. They really are. really felt like they were these big old hounds kind of moving along the bottom of the ocean, sniffing around, checking us out and coming up to say hello. It was really beautiful.
Brett Stanley: [00:21:46] Yeah. and so the resulting video, which I think is only a few minutes long, that was the result of, of a week’s worth of shooting, or was there, was there days that you just didn’t get anything.
Hannah Fraser: [00:21:58] There was one day where we didn’t get any shocks. but then every other day we got footage and there’s still so much footage that hasn’t been released, but really we really did cherry pick, you know, and got down to two minutes worth of footage from six days. What you see is the culmination of an insane amount of hard work.
Brett Stanley: [00:22:19] if ocean is open water, then your tanks and your swimming pools and that sort of stuff. It closed water. What are your experiences of doing the tank work?
Hannah Fraser: [00:22:28] Yeah, I really love tank and pools because there’s so much control. And so that’s where you get to do a lot more of just the really artistic body work and lighting and really crazy outfits because you’ve got this amazing controlled environment and like especially working with you, Brett, where you actually create sets on the water that just is.
One of my ultimate fantasies to be able to do all of this incredible, fantasy world, making it reality. And it’s really cool because you can also start to work with the surface a lot more, whereas the ocean is always moving. You can’t get a really calm surface. But one of my favorite underwater photography is the reflection that you get.
So if you can just come up and start to interact with that. Still pool surface. You get this incredible mirror imagery happening
Brett Stanley: [00:23:21] Yeah. That’s one of my favorite looks actually. That’s , one of the things that has, has brought it home. I don’t how amazing it is underwater is just playing with that liquid mirror, that Quicksilver kind of layer at the surface there. in terms of the tank work, I mean, it’s mostly chlorine water.
Hannah Fraser: [00:23:38] Yeah. That’s the downside.
Brett Stanley: [00:23:40] yeah. So that’s got to play havoc with, with your skin and your eyes and even your sinuses cause you’ve got water running up there every time.
Hannah Fraser: [00:23:47] Yeah. People always ask me, how do you keep your eyes open and how do you stop the water coming down your nose and. Basically with the eyes in salt water. I never really find it to be a challenge. So water is natural to be on the eyes. Maybe it’s a little bit of a sting for a minute or so, but it goes away.
It’s fine. It’s not damaging your eyes. Chlorine on the other hand is brutal, and I can’t tell you the amount of times where I just haven’t even been able to drive home after a shoot, but hours because my eyes are so blurry and red and in irritated from the chlorine.
it’s really hard. Cool. and also, with water going up, you know, there is no way to stop water going up your nose. There’s only ways to stop water going down into your lungs. So you have to get used to the feeling of your entire sinus cavity being. Flooded often with burning chlorine water.
Well, just closing off the back of your throat so it doesn’t go down into your air tubes, into your lungs. So it’s definitely an acquired skill. some people struggle for years and just can’t manage to do that. And others, you know, once you tell them, take them through the techniques, which I do in my Classes and workshops. They’re like, Oh, okay. It’s not that bad. So everybody’s got their own challenges with it. But yeah, there’s so many different, yeah. Things to think about when you’re underwater modeling people get pretty freaked out at the beginning. Everyone thinks, Oh, it looks really fun and really easy, but it’s not
Brett Stanley: [00:25:14] No. And I’ve had that with my clients where I’ve had people who are like, no, no, I’m totally fine. And I’m like, okay, we are used to being in the water. Oh, I swim all the time. Okay. And then they go to model and suddenly they’re not swimming anymore and they don’t know what to do and know how many people really think about what their face looks like when they’re under the water.
You know, usually they’re scrunched up trying to stop the water, getting, getting into every RFS that they have, but they’re not thinking about how that looks on camera. So from your point of view, how, how can people relax when they’re under the water? Like what are your processes when you go under, do you have like a little checklist of things, I mean, it’s probably muscle memory for you now, but is there a sort of a little list of things you can do to make sure you’re looking the best on camera?
Hannah Fraser: [00:26:04] Absolutely. It’s definitely all muscle memory now. I luckily don’t have to think about it, but having now learning to teach other people, I’ve had to retrain my brain to understand all of the things that I do intuitively. And it’s been a really interesting process. but I’ve had to go back and really make a checklist for the people that I’m teaching because it’s not something that we normally do. So before we even get in the water, I take people through a yoga, meditation and breathwork, and that just calms the heart down, makes us beat slower.
Oxygenates the at the bloodstream so they can hold their breath longer and so they’re not panicking when they go under water. . And then I stopped by saying, okay, let’s start at the top of the head and work down with your eyes. You need to relax the eyes. They don’t want to be big googly fish eyes and you also don’t want to have squinty eyes, so just be really aware of what your eyes are doing.
Cause a lot of people kind of look like dead fish. You also have to emote more on underwater on camera then you think, because most of the time people look very bad, blank and a little bit did underwater. And then with your mouth, you have to not be like puckering like a big pack a fish. And also gently smiling.
So you look like you’re having fun under there and not panicking. I often say people just open your lips a little bit and you can close off the back of your throat with your tongue and you can just allow water. Just come in the front. Yeah. Out of your mouth. And that stops people from pursing too tightly or from having
Yeah. Blowfish mouth. And then with the shoulders, you need to drop them back and down because we tend to hunch the shoulders up underwater and then the arms float up. So we need to do, bring everything down and tens that you actually have some gravity to work with. So you look long and extended through the , the back of the spine and through the shoulders and the neck.
And then we don’t want to have, pits always like right up in your face. So genuinely bringing the arms down or just bringing one arm gently up.
You don’t want to have your knees or bent up underneath you, which most people tend to do. You want to like elongate than that. The legs point the toes. Try not to bend the knees too much unless you’re doing like, yeah, little side cute, bowl or something. There’s specific poses that it works, but in, in general, you want to really try to elongate your body.
pointed toes 100% thing that will make every photo look lovely. You have a bent ankle and all of a sudden the whole photo is ruined. And also hand position is really important to have. Like no, those photos are the old artworks of the God reaching for the hand of man where they touch the fingers. It’s that kind of hand, yes.
Position where you just want these beautiful flowing, gentle ballerina type hands. You don’t want to be like making fists or like flip a fingers or anything like that.
Brett Stanley: [00:28:59] Yeah. Just keeping it nice and relaxed, right. Just natural and let the water float you a little bit.
Hannah Fraser: [00:29:05] and although you want to aim for a specific, pose and communicate that with your photographer, often things will shift and change and you’ll be falling over.
And rather than just struggling the entire time get that one thing that you think you have to do. Sometimes you have to surrender to what the water is doing and make that the pose beautiful. Falling gently down into the water column and then that might be . Okay. The most amazing pose that ever came out of it.
So there’s a lot of surrender, a lot of ’em just going with the flow, literally.
Brett Stanley: [00:29:37] I think that’s, that’s something that I try and teach my clients is that it’s being open to things not going how you plan them. But being able to react to that. So not, not so much being in control of the situation. It’s more about reacting to what happens and being able to make the best of that situation.
Hannah Fraser: [00:29:56] Absolutely. And there’s so many different things going on, like with the hair is often floating around in front of your face, so there’s different, yeah. Techniques we can use to kind of gently brushed the hair out of the face in a graceful gesture that can be part of the photo as opposed to struggling with it.
You can make gentle flowing head movements back and side to side too. Get the hair out of your face. and then if you’re wearing a dress under water, that’s another whole ball game to play with. It can be very heavy. It can, it gets stuck all around your legs so you don’t have any use of kicking your legs.
You only have your arms to work with and just trying to, yeah. Get all of the pieces in the right place at one time. People are often fiddling and moving around so much trying to get all of these aspects ready for the camera. That’s no shot is ever taken because perpetual movement. Yeah. so slowing down is one of the most important things that I always tell people.
Well, and if you, I think you’re going slow enough. You’re not, you still have to slow down some more.
Brett Stanley: [00:30:58] this lower the better. And I think that’s the, as a photographer, that is the most common thing I’m telling someone to do is to move slower because I think when . You’re under the water, your whole sense of time totally changes. You don’t have any concept of how long you’ve been down there for.
and with that in mind, what sort of advice do you give to photographers who are working with models underwater, say for the first time? How can they convey what they want. With those models? Are there things that they could, they they need to be aware of in terms of getting models to pose in certain ways
Hannah Fraser: [00:31:37] yeah. Another really important point is that model always needs to look up to wherever the light is coming from. And obviously with underwater, it’s rare that you have underwater lights. You’re often just working with natural light, which is coming down from the top of the pool. So rather than the model lifting their head.
Directly towards you. We don’t want to see up their nose. You want to get the model to turn to the side a little bit and you know, do a little bit of profile shots so they can get that face up to the light and, showing the model before they get in the water. What specific poses you have in mind. So you’re not trying to impart too much information to them while they’re struggling and trying to think about all these different body parts.
Have a really set plan. Okay. what you want to create. Okay. With, of course, the understanding that everything shifts and changes in the water as well, and just choosing one pose for each shot so that they’re not trying to do a whole bunch of different things. Okay. It’s very confusing. It’s interesting thinking about it from the photographer’s point of view instead of the models.
Brett Stanley: [00:32:41] Oh. Totally is. And it’s interesting for me, is I’ve been doing underwater photography for so long, but very rarely do I ever become the model. And so it’s not until I become the model, which I’ve done for a couple of like self portraits where I’ve realized, Holy crap, this is hard. Like I’m so used to having a mask on.
I’m so used to being able to see, I’m so used to not having water up my nose, the times when I have become the model. It’s, it’s intense.
Hannah Fraser: [00:33:10] You gain an appreciation for what they’re going through, for sure.
Brett Stanley: [00:33:13] Oh, exactly. Yeah. And it makes me understand how difficult some of the things that I’m asking people to do might be. and especially the, the not being able to see.
I think we as photographers or even just as divers, forget that you really can’t see crap under the water
Hannah Fraser: [00:33:31] Yeah. It’s so true. Yeah. And the photographer saying, look at me, and you’re like, I used that blow by, can’t see over in the distance. I don’t know. Cool.
Brett Stanley: [00:33:40] there’s an awesome video of you that I’ve seen recently where, I don’t know where you were, but you’re on a reef somewhere in a tail, and, you’re on a regulator and the regulator is taken out of your mouth and then you swim across this reef with no mask on. And it looks like you can totally see where you are and it looks like you’ve totally know exactly what’s going on.
Hannah Fraser: [00:34:02] What I usually do is I have a little swim around with the mosque on and I S but just before I take it off, I take a mental snapshot in my head of where I’m going and what that looks like and the main markers that I’m trying to hit. And so when I’m doing it and it’s completely blurry, I have a really strong reference point in my head.
got to say over the many years that I’ve been doing this, I really believe I’ve. Gotten some kind of extra sensory perception of blurry vision and aye. I can see by the way, things kind of shift and move underwater. I can tell how animals are feeling by the way that the blurry shapes move in front of me.
It’s really rare. It’s definitely just kind of something you pick up after many, many years of doing blurry work. I guess.
Brett Stanley: [00:34:55] that even without the Moscow on just through your experience, you can sort of sense how animals are feeling and as whether they’re aggressive or not.
Hannah Fraser: [00:35:05] Yeah. I’ve found that I can really tell how an animal is feeling by the way that it’s body moves underwater. Even though I have really blurry vision just after so many years of doing this, if I see a shock, blurry movement being kind of twitchy and fast, I’ll know that it’s agitated and it’s not a good time to be in the water.
Or if a mentoree flips, it’s fin fast. I know that it’s, it’s had a little fright and it’s, it’s. Not comfortable anymore. So yeah, it’s just something I’ve built up over many years of doing this. It’s kind of like an extra sensory perception in my blurry vision.
Brett Stanley: [00:35:41] Which is incredible , for the type of work that you’re doing. If you’re working with these animals all the time, then knowing how they’re feeling can really affect how long you stay with them.
Hannah Fraser: [00:35:52] Absolutely. I know that I’ve had a lot of encounters that have lasted a lot longer than usual. Humans have had the chance to because I’m really sinking into. Tapping into their energy and their frequency and, you know, just being as calm and gentle and noninvasive as possible while having the, you know, the, the calmness to approach them and in their space in a way that most people would be kind of flipping around and creating too much commotion for them to be comfortable.
Brett Stanley: [00:36:24] Yeah. outside of the animal sort of activism, the ocean activism, do you have a preference for shooting stills or video? Like do you prefer one over the other?
Hannah Fraser: [00:36:37] Hmm. Interesting question that I haven’t been asked before. They’re both very different to me. And as you know, having shopped with me a lot, the way that I work with video compared to photos is an entirely different process. Like if you try to film me doing underwater photos, it’s not a very graceful thing.
It’s kind of like moving from post pose and you know, moving the clothing and whatnot in between and then having to like pose and find that perfect moment. as opposed to the video footage is okay. Tenuous flowing movement and really having to go with whatever happens to there’s more surrender. Can’t make everything perfect.
Brett Stanley: [00:37:18] Do you find that you tend to prepare differently for one or the other, or is it just a, as soon as you get in the water, you make a decision.
Hannah Fraser: [00:37:26] I think I’m ready to go for either one at any time given moment. It’s just a different headset that I have to head frame of mind that I have to put myself in. Okay. In that moment, say, okay, now we’re doing video. Got it. And now I know how I’m going to move and do you know, dance through the water column?
I think I probably have to say that video for me. Is more exciting because when you see it played back evokes more of a sense of being underwater. You see the movement and the trailing and all of these glorious fins moving in, the hair moving and . That to me is like the most magical experience, Yeah. it’s more difficult though as a performer.
Brett Stanley: [00:38:11] Yeah. Cause you don’t have those. You can just reset. You have to continue the movement that you were doing.
So I kind of threw this out too, to Facebook and stuff before we came on, just asking if anyone had questions to ask you and one of them was, do you have a most favorite or most interesting place that you’ve, that you’ve been and shot at.
Hannah Fraser: [00:38:32] Yeah. Oh, it’s so good. Hard to choose. There’s so many awesome places for different reasons. I’m going to run through a few, just why I liked them. Tonga because you can swim legally with humpback whales. Oh my God. So amazing. And they have those too. Gorgeous. Okay. Underwater caves. They’re swallows cave and Martinez cave, I think it’s called, which are just like Epic, Epic, underwater natural Kevin studios.
so no tase in Mexico. Just gorgeous, stunning, amazing, underwater natural pools, but called and lots of mosquitoes and a bit challenging. Bahamas is probably the most pleasant place with so many awesome animals and things to swim with as well. Like, it’s just a ground, the mermaid. So that’s why I’m so excited to work with you there.
Yeah, And it’s warm. It’s tropical and beautiful. Yeah. So that’s probably like the most pleasant place to do it. Fiji is just lovely water. So that crazy tropical, you know, lost in paradise kind of a thing. That’s where I really learned to do underwater mermaid stuff. That’s my first view.
Trips being a mermaid was to BG.
Brett Stanley: [00:39:49] Oh wow. I’ve never been to Fiji, but I’ve seen some amazing shots from there.
Hannah Fraser: [00:39:54] You know, I, when I think it was like around 2006 or something and the fish and the coral was so beautiful. Okay. As I’ve gone back over the years, that has degraded, which is really sad and was one of the main reasons why really went on this mission to try and help the ocean, because I literally saw it degrading in front of my eyes from the first time became a mermaid in these tropical paradises to coming back and seeing it.
Yeah. Bleached coral and many fish around.
Brett Stanley: [00:40:25] Yeah. So seeing these things firsthand really drills it into you that something needs to be done right.
Hannah Fraser: [00:40:30] Yeah. It’s not just facts on a paper. It’s like real life loss. beautiful ecosystems.
Brett Stanley: [00:40:37] one of the other things that, people wanted to know was what do you do to train? Like how do you keep yourself fit and how do you keep your breath hold
Hannah Fraser: [00:40:46] Yeah. I do yoga and breath work and meditation every day, so that includes really breathing deeply into my lungs through all these different . Extreme postures too, expand and strengthen my lungs, and I love dance so much. So whether I’m just jumping around my room, yeah. Or I’m out, you know, dancing on stage, performing that to me, it gives me that like Ben durability, stretchability the spine, staying active and Oh, keeping that mermaid movement flow going all the time.
So those are my things just keep me fit and healthy and I’m vegan. Eat super healthy, no sugar whatsoever. Don’t smoke how they ever drink. So yeah, just super healthy lifestyle.
Brett Stanley: [00:41:30] Yeah. And I think. a common thing in this, in this industry. Anyway, I think with the, the breath holding is kind of got a pretty decent linked to your cardio ability and , your body fitness. I’m not the most fit person. I’m kind of a bit of a chubby guy. but I know that when my fitness is good, my breath hold is, is way better.
Hannah Fraser: [00:41:51] Hmm. And you’re just so chill. That’s why I can hold your breath so long, Brett.
Brett Stanley: [00:41:56] But as long as I don’t
Hannah Fraser: [00:41:58] Okay.
Brett Stanley: [00:41:58] move anywhere, I can sit at the bottom for a long time, but if I have to start kicking these little legs of mine,
Hannah Fraser: [00:42:05] Okay.
Brett Stanley: [00:42:05] Well, thanks so much, Hannah. It’s, it’s been amazing. having a chat with you about this stuff has been really cool.
And, and hopefully we’ll have you back on again.
but I really appreciate your time.
Hannah Fraser: [00:42:14] Absolutely. Always a pleasure talking to you and get to hang out with my chill LZ, bro.
Brett Stanley: [00:42:20] Yeah, totally. Australia represent. All right. Thanks, Hannah. We’ll speak to you soon.