Vision in the field: Photography from social anthropology

January 23, 2024

"My ethnographic research is concerned with understanding the human-environment encounters on Lord Howe Island, Australia. "Being a small Island, the lifeways of people on Lord Howe are intimately bound to the surrounding ocean which is a force that shapes their daily lives. "Freediving is the sport of diving under water without the use of breathing apparatus, instead relying on breath-hold techniques. A freediver retrieves an old tyre which she had found wedged in a coral structure. She hauled it from the water, determining that the rubber – toxic in its inevitable breakdown in the ocean – did not belong with the coral.

'Without breath': Sally Montgomery

A freediver (right) ascends from a dive ‘on the line’. She is transformed by equipment that assists her immersion. A hooded wetsuit clings to her body – a second skin. Long fins morph her human legs into a mermaid-like tail. A weight-belt counter-acts her natural human buoyancy.

At around 10 metres below surface she will reach a neutral state where, with no effort, she will neither sink nor float. 'It makes you feel like you are from the sea’, she says.

"My ethnographic research is concerned with understanding the human-environment encounters on Lord Howe Island, Australia.

"Being a small Island, the lifeways of people on Lord Howe are intimately bound to the surrounding ocean which is a force that shapes their daily lives.

"Freediving is the sport of diving under water without the use of breathing apparatus, instead relying on breath-hold techniques. During my fieldwork, freediving offered a particularly interesting practice through which to observe how people might cultivate relationships with, and feelings of belonging to, the ocean."

A freediver retrieves an old tyre which she had found wedged in a coral structure. She hauled it from the water, determining that the rubber – toxic in its inevitable breakdown in the ocean – did not belong with the coral.

The source of this news is from University of Cambridge

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