In 2016 Jess was diagnosed with breast cancer, and as you’ll hear in the interview they came up with a pretty special way to document her path to recovery that also took her mind off the treatments.
Ep 26 – Joe Hoddinott & Jess McIntern
Brett Stanley: [00:00:00] welcome back to the underwater podcast. And as this month is breast cancer awareness month. I wanted to share some stories of people who were using the underwater experience as part of their therapy. And this week I’m talking to model Jess muck intern and her partner photographer and illustrator Joe Holder.
in 2016, Jess was diagnosed with breast cancer. And as you’ll hear in the interview, they came up with a pretty special way to document her path to recovery. That also took her mind off the treatments. All right. Let’s dive in.
Joe and Jess, welcome to the underwater podcast.
Jess McIntern: [00:00:31] Thanks so much for having us
Joe Hoddinott: [00:00:33] Hey, thanks for having us.
Brett Stanley: [00:00:34] you guys have such an interesting story and I kind of want you guys to take the lead on this because I know a little bit about what, what you guys have come through and how you met and what that kind of led to do you want to give me an idea of, your backstory. So kind of let us know where you guys met and how we got to this point.
Joe Hoddinott: [00:00:52] She, she stalked me for quite a while. Honestly, it was, it was pretty, no, we, we had met through a mutual friend and. I had asked just to come to a model shoot with me. And that’s how we met. We met on a set and it was just, it was just for fun. It was actually for something to do with one of the, for the radio station that you worked at.
Um, I think it was like a little side event they were doing for the release of the first Avengers movie. For the Marvel Avengers. So we, we did a little comic book, photo shoot, and it was all fun, this and that. But like the moment I saw her, I was like, Oh, hi, like I would like to know her.
And that was love at first sight for me. And I’m pretty sure she didn’t know. I existed.
Brett Stanley: [00:01:32] Okay. Is it the same for you, Jess?
Jess McIntern: [00:01:35] I’m not quite, I immediately stuck my foot in my mouth by making fun of the fact that we were modeling with children’s masks. So there was like Ironman and Thor and the Hulk stuff. And I’m like, it were these little kids stuff. Our kids are so gross. They’re always sticky. And then I realized like, Oh, he probably has a kid.
And she’s like, yup. He does. And I was like, great, he’s going to be me fat and all the photos.
Brett Stanley: [00:01:56] no. No. And how does it turn out? Did you, did he edit you properly?
Jess McIntern: [00:02:01] He did I look very nice and it’s kind of crazy that we have all these pictures of the day we first met. Um, and after that shoot, we kind of stayed in contact just as friends for awhile. We did a couple of photo shoots together and our relationship just evolved from there.
Brett Stanley: [00:02:16] no, that’s great. And so, so talk me through, cause you guys ended up working together and shooting underwater. How did that sort of come about?
Joe Hoddinott: [00:02:24] That was something that I kind of just always wanted to do. I wasn’t really a water person. Like I wasn’t a certified diver. I wasn’t any of that. I just always looked at. Underwater portraits are from videos, things like that. And I wanted to kind of create that sort of surrealism and then coupled with, you know, seeing just underwater, who I was quite a number I thought, you know, let’s, let’s go ahead and give it a shot.
Um, I’d got a loaner housing from a friend of mine and, and invited her over. And that was. Back in 2012. That was our first, um, it was my first time shooting underwater. I mean, it was daylight and a pool light, and I had no clue what I was doing because we just jumped in and went for it.
Brett Stanley: [00:03:05] Yeah. And how was it from your side? Jess? Did you, did you had you done modeling underwater before.
Jess McIntern: [00:03:11] absolutely not. Um, I kind of joke that I’m not a real model. I just play one on the internet. Um, I really just did modeling things for fun. And so when he said, do you want a model underwater? I was like, Why not. Um, so I thought it was a really good time and I didn’t know that he didn’t know exactly what he was doing.
I mean, short of him telling me, like, I I’ve never really done this before, but I really didn’t know, you know, looking at it now, from what we’re doing at this point to back then, I’m like, Oh wow, you were really winging it.
Joe Hoddinott: [00:03:40] Yeah. Yeah.
Brett Stanley: [00:03:41] And so how did those images turn out?
Jess McIntern: [00:03:43] actually pretty good. Um, we got one really good shot. A friend of mine, uh, came with me and she ended up getting in the water too. And there’s a sh there’s a photo of the two of us, pretty symmetrically on the bottom of the pool. That looks awesome. Um, Um, it’s not anywhere near what we’re doing now, but for everybody’s first time modeling underwater and his first time shooting underwater, I thought it was really cool.
Brett Stanley: [00:04:07] Yeah, that’s great. And I think that’s the thing, like I think with underwater, once you have that first go, it’s such a learning experience and you, I think your expectations are fairly low and then you have these kind of amazing moments where you’re like, actually that was pretty good.
Joe Hoddinott: [00:04:21] Yeah, it kind of went into it, knowing that my keeper rate was going to be pretty terrible knowing before in a sort of a prior life, I was, um, I had a photo studio and I did weddings and portraits for almost 10 years. And so I had a good idea of what I was doing with a camera and my. My keeper rate, but once I kind of started working underwater, I quickly knew that I might get a photo, maybe two, and that still carries over today.
I’m shoots where I’m like, maybe I’ll have a photo, maybe, maybe two.
Brett Stanley: [00:04:49] I think that’s pretty common for a lot of us that, that the, the hit rate is pretty low. I think, you know, cause you’ve got so many things going on, uh, with all the water and, and just having two people who can’t communicate under water kind of makes it a little hard. How was it when you started working together?
Like where you guys were you guys together at this point?
Jess McIntern: [00:05:06] At this point, not a, we weren’t dating. We were still just friends. Um, we started dating, I want to say shortly after, probably by the end of the summer, we had officially started dating. Um, but we’ve had a really good rapport probably since the first day that we met, especially since my icebreaker was making fun of his son.
Brett Stanley: [00:05:24] right. That’s always good
Jess McIntern: [00:05:26] Our, yeah, our communication is, is very much us just kind of messing with each other all the time, which is helpful when you’re shooting and it’s very stressful. We can kind of give each other shit, um, and laugh through the difficult points when we’re doing photos. Cause everybody always, he hits that really frustrating point where you’re not quite achieving what you want from either end or you’re not sure what the other person is going after.
We can kind of work it out that way.
Brett Stanley: [00:05:54] Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So you guys have a, have a good little system between you to kind of get through these, these difficult points.
Joe Hoddinott: [00:06:00] Usually it’s a lot of yelling at each other.
Jess McIntern: [00:06:02] Yes,
Joe Hoddinott: [00:06:03] What are you doing? And it’s all, it’s not, it’s all ingest for the most part. It’s, it’s, it’s not mean by any stretch of the imagination, but, you know, we’ve, we’ve worked through some fairly stressful things to get an idea or a concept across, but it all kind of came about just for fun.
It was sort of something that we wanted to do because it was just ours. Nobody else was doing anything like that around here. And we’re in the exotic state of Delaware. So really nobody’s doing anything like that around here. And, um, we didn’t think it really become anything.
Brett Stanley: [00:06:34] And so, so where did it go? I mean, did you, did you start to put stuff online? Did you get some recognition for the work.
Joe Hoddinott: [00:06:40] We got, um, some attention prior. I think in the, in the early, the first couple of years, we got some attention of, um, our local newspaper picked up a story. I’d freelance for them in the past. So I had some contacts and one of the guys reached out and said, Hey, we want to run a story on local artists. And you know, you’re on the list.
So, you know, put something just together and. I think it was one random December, January, you know, printed in the paper. And you know, other than that, it was just, it was just online, just Facebook and social media mainly, and just to share between our friends. But, um, one thing that I had learned sort of early on in my photo career, or even prior to that as an illustrator is, um, is to sort of keep something for yourself.
And when you’re doing a lot of work, are there people you can get burnt out kind of quickly if you don’t keep something for yourself? So that’s what this was for me is to keep something for us or just for me on selfishly, honestly.
Brett Stanley: [00:07:33] So this was more like more personal work than it was for, for, for getting clients or anything.
Joe Hoddinott: [00:07:39] Oh
Jess McIntern: [00:07:39] Is definitely your passion project.
Joe Hoddinott: [00:07:42] Which is an it’s. Ninth year now.
Brett Stanley: [00:07:44] Yeah, that’s great. I mean, you’ve almost been doing this for 10 years, which is end for a passion project to be still going that long. It’s pretty interesting.
Jess McIntern: [00:07:52] it works out because it’s only during the summer. So we only have a specific amount of time that we can do this. So it’s not all year round. Um, and. You’ll see images pop up from his social media and mine throughout the year, but he kind of like squirrels them away for something to work on when we can’t be underwater.
And we, we can’t shoot cause it’s the, weather’s just not, uh, it’s not letting us do anything outside.
Brett Stanley: [00:08:17] Yeah. And so do you then spend the winter kind of scheming for the next summer?
Joe Hoddinott: [00:08:22] Yeah. Especially since the past couple of years, I’ve thought a lot about like, hi, next season. I want to do that. And I call it a season. So I’m like next season, I want to do this. And I’ve already started doing that You know, this coming summer, is coming up with ideas to try and, you know, just evolve what we’re doing and everything we do is on, um, it’s, it’s, it’s really weighing it.
We’re on a shoestring budget, you know, we’re not, it’s not something I’m trying to make money on. It was just sort of, it was just a fun thing, but I like to operate at a high level as I can without breaking the bank.
Brett Stanley: [00:08:53] yeah. Without investing too much of your, of your card, hard cash.
Joe Hoddinott: [00:08:57] Right with no return on that. Correct.
Jess McIntern: [00:08:59] That’s pretty funny that towards the end of every summer, we start doing something a little bit different that we run out of time to work on. And that ends up being the thing that we start with next season.
Brett Stanley: [00:09:11] That’s really interesting. So do you find that over the winter, your kind of thinking about how to perfect it, the thing you’ve kind of just, just kind of prototype to at the end of the summer.
Joe Hoddinott: [00:09:21] Oh, for sure. For sure. Um, one example is a couple, uh, I think it was two seasons ago, two summers ago, we ended up shooting doing projection underwater, where I would do an illustration digital illustration, do it on the iPad and then load it onto a digital projector and projected that into, through the water and have her, you know, don’t move, stay right there.
Let me try to focus the projector on you through the water and then jump in the pole and. Uh, you know, get some shots of that. And we ended one summer doing that. And that was like the first thing we did the following summer, because it was so excited to try more things. But, you know, we are very weather dependent and time dependent here we use, um, my, my family’s pool.
So it’s not even, I don’t, I don’t own it. It’s it’s like the whole family uses it. So we schedule our times when, when nobody’s there. And normally that’s why we started shooting at night that end for light control so that I could. Play more, get away with more things.
Brett Stanley: [00:10:15] that’s really interesting, especially with the projector stuff that must’ve looked amazing.
Joe Hoddinott: [00:10:18] yeah, we, I think we started that, um, in our dining room, it was like, stand here, you know, get naked, stand there. Let me take some pictures of you project, some images on you and find a couple that we like. And then he was like, yeah, we have to put this under water.
Brett Stanley: [00:10:31] Yeah. That’s how most things work I think is that you’d look at something online and go, Oh, that’s going to work under water. Let’s try that.
Joe Hoddinott: [00:10:37] Absolutely.
Brett Stanley: [00:10:38] So let’s, let’s kind of fast forward a little bit to do a, not a happy time, but when I think Jesse, you got your diagnosis for breast cancer.
Jess McIntern: [00:10:47] Yeah, so I was diagnosed in March of 2016. Um, I ended up going through chemotherapy first, um, and I ended up, uh, wrapping up chemotherapy towards the end of the summer. Um, but chemo was absolutely horrific and it took everything fun away. Um, you can’t drink, you can’t lay in the sun. You have the time you don’t want to eat, you don’t want to get out of bed.
And one of the things that I kind of held onto was like, I can still do this. I can still model underwater. And the added bonus of not having to worry about my hair being in my face, um, with the motion of the water, I was like, Oh, we’re going to make something. Awesome out of this, but more so I was just really excited about something that it couldn’t take from me that we were still able to do.
So if I was feeling up to it and the weather was conducive, um, we would shoot pretty much every chance we got, as long as I felt. Good enough to make it to the pool. There were definitely some times when I absolutely couldn’t and we made, we made some really powerful images out of that, but it just puts so much more passion behind the project for me, especially to kind of be able to show what I was going through without. Not that I didn’t want to look weak, but it gave it such grace and beauty, but also showed what a struggle it was at the same time.
Brett Stanley: [00:12:14] Yeah. Did the water give you any kind of relief from the, from the side effects of the chemo?
Jess McIntern: [00:12:20] Um, sometimes it did, uh, with the type of treatment that I’m going through. My cancer was, um, What’s called triple positive. So it was, um, being fed by estrogen and progesterone and also, uh, uh, her to, um, her too. But, uh, I get hot flashes now. And so being in the water completely kind of eliminated those waves of heat coming off of me.
Um, and it did. You know, it just felt nice to kind of be relaxed in my own skin, in the water when everything felt so raw and rough and sandpaper, like
Brett Stanley: [00:12:53] Yeah, it was. So I guess getting in that pool was a bit of an escape from the, from the whole situation.
Jess McIntern: [00:12:59] it was, it was, it was really nice to kind of just let go of the weight of everything, metaphorically and physically at the same time.
Brett Stanley: [00:13:07] Yeah. Did you go into it with, like, was it a thing where you thought I’m getting, I want to document the treatment and my journey through this, or was it more of a, I need to get in the water to feel better. We may as well take some photos.
Jess McIntern: [00:13:20] Um, it was much more of us kind of documenting what I was going through, um, and making something that was absolutely horrifying. Look much more graceful than it looked when I was going through, um, you know, during the day and just regular life. Um, but it was, it was important to us too kind of document my growth and my strength, even though I was probably the weakest I’ve ever been.
Brett Stanley: [00:13:45] Yeah, that’s incredible. What was the growth like when you first started modeling again under the water? What was the kind of the. What was the process you went through in terms of, of, of growing under there?
Jess McIntern: [00:13:59] so you could really see that, um, I was feeling stronger. I was feeling better. I had some hair coming back. My body had kind of filled back out cause I had lost a lot of weight. Um, but a lot of the images that we shot when I was bald, when I was going through chemo were very reflective of how I felt at the time.
And the following years, it’s just gotten stronger and stronger and stronger. As far as the images are concerned, we’ve tried to. You know, show that, that process of my continued growth and there’s always more hair and everything is, is changing, but you can really see how I feel inside coming out through these images as far as, you know, kind of coming back into myself, which has definitely been a process since treatment.
Brett Stanley: [00:14:49] Yeah. Was it strange going underwater without any hair? I mean, hair is such an, such a part of underwater modeling. Was it, did you feel like you have we’re missing something?
Jess McIntern: [00:14:58] I did, but also there was that kind of, that added bonus of not having to fight with it. Cause there’s so many shots where you’d be like, that was amazing, but my hair was in my face. Um, and we’re gotten now, I just was talking to Joe about this the other day. I was like this, I totally forgot. How to deal with that.
This is the longest my hair has been in in years. And there are so many images where I’m like, Oh, I had to fix my hair on that one. Oh, I have to, you know, tuck it to the side or turn into the way that the water is moving to make sure it’s not in front of my face. Um, but everything was kind of a little weird bald just cause it was something I’d never experienced before.
And I had always had very long hair, probably like down to the middle of my back. And you go from that to nothing was. I’m pretty drastic, but I was very lucky in that. Um, my head was not oddly shaped when we shaved it. Um, that was, I kind of had my fingers crossed as he shaving my head going. I hope we don’t find anything we heard under there.
Brett Stanley: [00:15:53] like, like six, six, six or something?
Jess McIntern: [00:15:55] Yeah. Yeah. We’re like a barcode or, you know, an extra finger.
Brett Stanley: [00:15:59] That’s right. And Joe, like from your point of view, how was it going into the pool? To with this sort of documentation in mind. Did it change how you approached this as opposed to how you would normally approach underwater photography?
Joe Hoddinott: [00:16:13] Definitely did for me, it was very, it was very, almost more emotional. I felt like I was sort of the emotional one and she was the strong one. Don’t let her fool you. She was very strong, but, um, we had. Started by that time using, using strobes. So I had, I had lighting. I was happy with, um, and it was very technical for me.
So we focused on, um, I think for me, let me back up a second. It was more, it went from something that was just fun. Yay. There you are too. This is important now. There’s it’s, it’s more poignant. It has a meaning. It just sort of transcended into something. It was like a switch when it was flipped and. I started to take it.
Not that I wasn’t taking it seriously, but I started taking it very seriously from a production standpoint. I wanted things to be physically perfect. And, you know, that’s when I started actually looking at other photographers and trying to analyze what they were doing and also looking at film, video movies, things like that to try and see like, you know, what makes this interesting, what makes this work and how can I replicate that?
And, um, I had a director of photography guy named Kirk Jones reached out. And he’s a, he’s a DP on a couple of different shows. And, uh, he, he reached out, we just, social media friends randomly know how the internet works. And, um, he said, I saw your stuff and. Wow, this is great. And we exchanged Christmas cards and he was like, let me give you some lighting tips.
And I was like, please, please do it. This is fantastic, you know, to kind of have an idea of why to light something a certain way, which not that on a, on dry land, we know this, but it seems like a lot of things get forgotten when you’re going under water. So I was able to sort of focus on. Really wild things that I hadn’t really thought of before and with her, with no hair, it was just a lot of fun to like play off the, I call it the ceiling, like the bottom of the water, the mirror, um, where, you know yeah.
And you know, where you can bounce light off of that kind of a thing. And just, I really had fun with it that way, but it took on an Arab seriousness and almost became defining for myself as an artist, which was unexpected. But. You know, I, I embraced it and ran with it.
Brett Stanley: [00:18:23] Yeah. I mean, I think you guys have done amazing work. These photos, uh, there are motive. But the yet, so minimalistic, I think, um, you know, uh, for those who haven’t seen them there, it’s just, you know, mostly naked, but very backlit. So there’s a lot of, um, a lot of negative space, I guess, which kind of leaves room for interpretation, which, which I think is beautiful.
Joe Hoddinott: [00:18:45] Yeah, we played a lot with fabrics. Um, I cut a lot of really long bolts of fabric and we to throw those in the water and we tried different colors and most of the time we settled on white because it bounces the light around more attractively and things like that. And she was really able to like, turn it into a dress or let it just be a background element.
And I think one of the strongest photos that I think we’ve ever made, I know I’ve personally ever made is this one that we call it, um, reborn. And it’s where she’s just curled up in the fetal position. I ended up flipping it over, inverting it, and she, she stretched. Now she’s the artist of the fabric. She does the fabric work.
She laid the fabric out behind her. I mean, no safety divers know nobody. And. She laid this fabric out and then curls up in the pose and then shot it and was like, um, I hope I never take a photo of this. Good again, but I’m glad we have that, but you know, that’s it I’m done. I don’t want to do another one like that.
Brett Stanley: [00:19:37] Yeah, what’s going through your mind, Jess, when you’re doing a pose like that, knowing, you know, knowing what you’re going through is, are you kind of working through some, some emotional stuff or are you kind of just happy to be, to be floating and to be empty?
Jess McIntern: [00:19:50] A little bit of both. Um, I’ve always been a very active person. I really enjoy working out. Um, and just doing, and I, when I was going through treatment, I couldn’t do anything. I fainted quite a few times. Um, I, I just, wasn’t having a very good time of it and this was something I could still do and not feel like I was heavily exerting myself and I could still make it look graceful without.
Without showing how much I really was struggling. And I found it very easy to kind of relax and do different poses under the water, just because it did take a little bit of the pressure off of my body somehow. Um, and we would throw ideas back and forth. And a lot of the time though, it was kind of, well, let’s just see what you can do.
And when you’ve had enough, like let me know, we’ll call it a night. So I would just kind of. Jump up and down and, you know, put my body in different ways to see what did that look like? Maybe I can try this. And I was like, okay, well let’s, let’s give, give this a shot. Cause he would just let me run with whatever I felt like I was capable of doing that day, which definitely varied from day to day.
Um, but that specific one, I was like, well, let’s just see what this looks like. And I spent. Who knows how long fluxing with that fabric sheet. But once I got it where I wanted it, I’m like, okay, go. And that’s kind of our, our communication is one, two, three go. And then I will hold my breath for as long as I can and continue to strike poses until I can’t anymore.
And then pop out of the water and be like, did we get anything? That’s my definitely has been my approach to it kind of through the whole thing, but especially, um, at that point,
Joe Hoddinott: [00:21:28] Yeah, we, we collaborate a lot on it. She brought up a good point. Is that a lot of what we do is like, sometimes we have an idea. Sometimes we really don’t. We just like let’s, let’s see what happens. See work the first couple of things, what direction it takes us. Maybe we figure something out. And those shoots that summer of 2016, a lot of them, like we had an idea for certain things, but most of them were just like, just go and see what you do.
She orchestrated so much of that on her own. It was fantastic to see.
Brett Stanley: [00:21:57] What was their reaction to the photos? Once you started to show them to people and people either didn’t know or didn’t know the story behind it was, was there a different reaction from people.
Joe Hoddinott: [00:22:07] I think Once they saw her bald, um, it was pretty obvious. It was, she was, there was something, something I miss something wrong, but she didn’t look weak at all. She looked beautiful. You know, she didn’t, she looked. Powerful, not, you know, thin and things. So once people saw that it was more of like, they were just in, in all about what she was able to do, the art we were able to make while she was doing that.
And we are in a small community of artists here in the exotic state of Delaware. Um, so we had a couple of people. Yeah. One of which two of them were gallery owners. And, you know, they talked about a show and we decided to shoot through the summer. And I think we held back a lot of the photos. I don’t remember, um, specifically, but we saved a lot of photos to show at this gallery opening.
They gave us a. Um, an October date for breast cancer awareness and they, they left the show up for a month, which normally they, when they do shows like this, you have a week or two at most. And you know, I think they saw the significance of it and left it up for a month. And, you know, we had prints available for sale and people were buying them off the wall.
It was very new for me because I wasn’t in the fine art community at all, but it was like a crash course into the fine art world and photography.
But it was very well received. Yeah. I mean, a couple of website, you know, industry websites reached out and one of the run stories on us, things like that. And it was just, it was exciting, but the excitement was kind of wasted a little bit because of what, you know, she was going through.
And, you know, as her partner, there’s nothing you can do. You just sit there and. Can I bring you a water? Can I do this? Can I do that? And otherwise I’ll just be quiet and I’ll be right here if you need me. And I’m sure she’ll reiterate this. Sometimes just being in the room is all I was supposed to do that day.
So it’s um, it was, it was sort of like a, um, like a silver lining a little bit for what we were going through and the things we were trying to do, if that
Jess McIntern: [00:24:02] I was, I was very concerned. So I, I didn’t go out in public bald at all. Um, not that I was embarrassed of being balled or anything. It just, wasn’t something I felt comfortable doing. And I felt like when you saw me in person bald, it made me look sick, paired with, you know, the fact that I was obviously very gaunt and pale and. You could really tell I was very, very ill, but being bald underwater in these photos made it look strong and graceful. And that was one of the only ways that people ever saw me bald. Um, almost none of our friends and family saw me without hair. I wore a wig every single day. Every time I left the house to every treatment.
Um, so when people started seeing these photos pop up on social media, they were really. Introduced to not only how sick and how severe this treatment was. Um, although I did share things, you know, in writing through social media pretty consistently to document the process. Um, but this was one of the only ways that they could actually see me with no hair, but I was pretty determined to only show that in a yes, I’m very sick, but look what I can still do.
And. You know, I will come back out of this or, you know, I might fetal position on the couch five days out of the week, but give me one good day and here’s what I can do.
Brett Stanley: [00:25:25] Yeah. So this was a way of, of, of kind of controlling the narrative around you and, and which for a lot of people, I think controlling the narrative is for other people, but it’s also for yourself. If you feel like you’re in control and it’s strong, then you feel in control and strong. Is that kind of how that felt?
Jess McIntern: [00:25:43] absolutely. Um, you definitely. When you’re, when you’re sick and people can see that you’re very sick like that, you definitely get a different reaction. And this was kind of my way of taking control of that. Um, and I didn’t, I didn’t want to look like I felt on the inside and this was one of the ways that I was able to accomplish that thankfully with Joe’s help.
Cause I mean, it was, it was definitely a drastic, um, difference between seeing the bald in person and seeing me under the water bald. Striking these, you know, very specific, graceful poses in, you know, either white dresses or the white fabric are completely new to, it looked graceful and relaxing as opposed to what was really going on.
Brett Stanley: [00:26:26] Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And there is, I think, whether you’ve lost your hair by choice or by not, I think there is a strength. With people who can, who can still pose and model like that. Because I think the hair is such an integral part of you that suddenly when it’s gone, there’s less for you to, to hide behind metaphorically.
So it’s very real, it’s very unique.
Jess McIntern: [00:26:51] That was also kind of something that came up when we started shooting, when I had no hair. And like, how are you going to be able to tell that I’m under water? Because a lot of that is how you can tell how it’s all over the place and it’s, it’s, it’s going with, um, The current, Oh my gosh. I couldn’t think of that word.
So your hair is flowing with the current and so is whatever you have on. And there were some shots that we did where if we hadn’t used what Joe referred to as the ceiling, you might not have realized that I was even under water.
Brett Stanley: [00:27:17] Yeah. Especially when you’re in that black void. Because there’s, there’s nothing flowing and that’s what we rely on to kind of get that message across. And then when you added in that fabric that gave you something from the shots that I’ve seen, it, it gives you something to sort of pose in front of, but it also gives that element of, of being underwater.
Jess McIntern: [00:27:37] yeah, it does show the, the motion. Um, it helped to have that fabric and to have. The dresses or to use the ceiling, or I don’t think we did much with bubbles in that way, but I mean, anything that you could see that indicated that we’re actually underwater, but I mean, just the, the floating ones really helped bring it home that like, Oh yeah.
She’s, she’s still under water. She’s just not out in space.
Brett Stanley: [00:28:04] Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Is there advice you would give to other people who are looking to kind of do. To use underwater photography as, as part of their, their journey through a sickness like this through breast cancer or anything like that. Is there, are there things that you’d learnt from doing this?
Jess McIntern: [00:28:21] You know, if you, if you have the ability to get into the water and kind of just relax, it is definitely a way for you to kind of. Let go of the pressures and kind of just float and just be, um, if you’re, if you have access to someone who can take your photos underwater, it kind of just puts you in a different world.
So you’re not the same person that you are, you know, walking down the street and walking into the doctor’s office and laying on the couch, it, it adds some sort of element that kind of removes you from everything. Because you have to focus so hard on the difficulties that water brings to the table. So you have to hold your breath, but not look like a chipmunk at the same time, you have to control whatever fabric it is.
You’ve got. So if you’ve got clothes on that are flowing, if you’ve got hair at the time, if you’ve got some sort of prop you’re supposed to be controlling, I mean, that’s, that’s all part of it. The temperature of the water is absolutely part of it. Um, I prefer not to be freezing. So I’m very lucky that the pool that we use is heated.
Um, that’s a struggle that we face at the end of the season too, but I would absolutely, um, you know, support people seeking out, just being able to relax and some sort of water, but, you know, if you can get in there and kind of fight through those elements to normalize yourself under the water, It’s a complete and utter distraction from everything else, because there are so many tiny pieces you have to focus on all at one time.
Brett Stanley: [00:29:52] absolutely.
Joe Hoddinott: [00:29:53] One of the things that we sort of, I wanted to bring up is. We learned the ins and outs of this sort of together, like the buoyancy, like don’t inhale exhale first to, you know, lower yourself. And, you know, before I started weighting myself down, you know, we learned all of that at the same time.
And over the years, people have seen our work and said, you know, I want to come over and do it. And they expect photos like, like Jess and I get together and a lot goes into, as you know, I’m training them. On what to do and how to look and, you know, like some safety things and, um, just to keep them safe and actually looking good under water.
And that’s sort of, it’s been a little bit of a struggle for us trying to work with other people for me and having to, like, I rely a lot just for our images, because I just, for granted sometimes that she is so. Has been doing this for so long and can just do a, we don’t even have to think about it, but when there’s a new person, you almost have to go through like, say an hour or half hour of just, you know, like talking about, you know, what you want to do.
And, you know, these are the things that you exhale a little bit when you go under water. So that way you don’t float right back up, things like that.
Brett Stanley: [00:31:02] Yeah. Well, I guess you and Jess have got a short shorthand now you’ve been working together and you kind of, kind of discovered a lot of this together. So you, you have this kind of language that, that you don’t need to speak anymore. You it’s just in intuitive.
Joe Hoddinott: [00:31:15] Correct.
Jess McIntern: [00:31:15] Yeah. There’s there’s times where I’ve actually gotten in the water with, with friends that we’ve had over that wanted to do it. Um, cause I saw them struggling and I’m like, I’ll get in with you and show you this process that I kind of just do because I am, I’ve been doing it now at this point, once they have come over for a few months, if it’s the summertime or however many years, I kind of.
It every season, it takes me a little bit of time to get back into it. Um, but I teach them in layers, so, okay. Let’s work on holding your breath first. Okay. Now, can you do that and not look like a chip mug? Okay. Now, can you do that and think about which direction your, your body is going to be facing. Okay.
Now do all of that and then add in whatever it is you’re wearing or working with in the background. And then do all of that at one time. And that’s what I mean when I say that it kind of told, totally removes you from everything else, because you have so many things to focus on that you can’t be worrying about, you know, Oh, is my stomach upset or do I have a headache or.
This is my foot cramping. You’re you’re so 110% in what you’re doing at that moment. It’s a complete distraction, which is a huge stress reliever, honestly, and a way for people to kind of distract themselves from whatever it is that you’re dealing with in regular life. Once, once you’re under there, you have to, to achieve your goal.
You have to focus on all of these little parts.
Brett Stanley: [00:32:34] Yeah, definitely. And that’s part of my philosophy as well as that, you know, breath holding under water and posing underwater is such a way of focusing yourself. And forget about it, whether it’s your fear or your sickness or your anxiety to just kind of give you an escape from that for a little while.
Joe Hoddinott: [00:32:54] It definitely focuses you.
Jess McIntern: [00:32:56] it is absolutely an escape and a, an, a great distraction for people. And it’s much more difficult than it looks. Um, I mean, we still struggle every summer to kind of get back into it and. Even on good days and like, Oh no, that was terrible. Hold on, go again. It’s you really have to be all into it. And that’s kind of a little bit of my, my favorite thing is when we bring people over to do it and they, they go, Oh yeah, I can do this.
And then they see the difficulty and they’re like, Oh, okay. That moment of realization is, is kind of my favorite.
Brett Stanley: [00:33:28] Right. Yeah. When they see behind the curtain.
Jess McIntern: [00:33:31] Yeah.
Brett Stanley: [00:33:31] And so you’re in remission now, or have you ever recovered?
Jess McIntern: [00:33:35] Um, so I have had no evidence of disease, uh, in four years. Um, my four year Mark is September of this year. Um, and I’m not allowed to say cancer free for five years. So no evidence of disease in four years, which is great. I still have ongoing treatments to make sure I stay that way. Um, but it’s, it’s pretty exciting.
Brett Stanley: [00:33:54] Yeah, that’s great. And so what’s next for you guys? Have you got projects in the works?
Joe Hoddinott: [00:33:58] This year, we actually started doing video for the first time, and that was more me playing around. I was like, let’s. Let’s play with video and she’s, you know, kind of indifferent to my desires is just goes along with it, which I’m extremely grateful for. But, um, I think we want to play around with that and we’ve talked to a couple local musicians and things like that that want to use some photos, one of which, um, Commissioned Jess and I to do a magazine cover a couple of years ago for a Halloween issue.
We did like something that looked like ghost, where she wrapped herself in a fabric and things like that. And as kind of a way to celebrate. And he’s been a good supporter of us throughout, I guess, the last five or six years. Um, he’s in a, he has a band and is into seventies, like space opera stuff. So he wants us to come up with this, like.
Set of like Jess in space, which I’ve actually done illustrations of, but he wants us to do that under water, um, and use that for his album cover. So that’s kind of, I think what we’re going to focus on or what I’m going to focus on and then dump on her surprise. She just found out for the first time right now.
Brett Stanley: [00:35:08] Oh, there you go. Congratulations.
Jess McIntern: [00:35:08] Oh, well,
Joe Hoddinott: [00:35:09] You have to wear it. Like a helmet underwater, I think is what he wants. So we’ll see what we were able to do.
Brett Stanley: [00:35:14] Yeah,
Jess McIntern: [00:35:15] Oh, that makes me a little nervous. Um, Yeah, I do. It’s definitely Joe’s passion project again. Um, since I ever since I started feeling better, it’s, it’s much more his, uh, ballgame and I honestly get a little nervous in the summertime when I see an Amazon package at our doorstep. Cause I’m like, what did you buy?
What do I have to wear now? What is that? So now I guess I should be looking for a box with a helmet in it.
Joe Hoddinott: [00:35:39] Yeah, yeah,
Brett Stanley: [00:35:40] it’s good. You’ve got this lab rat, just living with jar.
Joe Hoddinott: [00:35:43] Right. Yeah. She’s certainly my muse. And again, I’m, I, I can’t express how grateful I am to have, um, someone in my life who can, I can interact with her through art. And even though it’s not it’s decidedly, not her passion it’s mine, but she, she puts up with it and gives it 110% every time it worked together.
And she’s a unicorn for sure. And I just have to hold onto her.
Brett Stanley: [00:36:09] That’s amazing because this has been awesome. Just to hear this story and just to hear how you’ve used the underwater photography as part of the therapy, I guess, and as a way to, give other people a little bit of hope, I guess, in terms of, how their sickness can at least be put off.
For a little while whilst you’re underwater.
Jess McIntern: [00:36:26] Yeah, really anything you can do, um, to kind of remove yourself from a situation like that with any type of sickness is. A huge benefit. And that’s kind of one of the reasons that we’ve, we’ve also had people come over and try it themselves, especially if they’re kind of going through a little something it’s, it’s a complete distraction and it’s very welcomed by everyone that tries it.
Even if they don’t love the experience while they’re doing it. They’re like, yes, it is a complete removal from everything else.
Joe Hoddinott: [00:36:54] Right. And sometimes we don’t even get a good photo out of it. It’s just more of the experience and the good time that we have. And then we sit by a fire pit and, you know, have a couple of drinks afterwards to just, you know, just relax. And like I said, escape from the anxieties and things like that.
Brett Stanley: [00:37:08] Yeah, that’s brilliant. That’s beautiful guys. Thanks so much for sharing it.
Joe Hoddinott: [00:37:11] Thanks for having us.
Jess McIntern: [00:37:12] Yes. Thank you so much.