Water often has a very calming effect. Perhaps it is because we start our lives in the water of our mothers’ womb or maybe it is because the earth and our own bodies are primarily comprised of it. For whatever reason, no one can deny that water often holds a mystifying effect over us.
Underwater photographer Erena Shimoda has explored the underwater world with her camera for years, documenting the native wildlife that call the sea home. However, when a car accident claimed her father’s life and nearly claimed her own life 12 years ago, she realized on an even deeper level the healing effect that water can have.
After struggling with the physical recovery from the accident which threatened both her vision and the use of her left arm, Erena realized that only through helping others could she begin to help herself heal psychologically. She began volunteering with the American Cancer Society’s “Look Good, Feel Better” campaign.
Here, she helped cancer survivors apply makeup and wigs in an effort to restore their self-esteem after battling cancer and undergoing treatment. While this was beneficial for Erena’s own personal healing, she soon realized that she could employ her own talents to help these women on their journey.
The Underwater Healer Project focuses on photographing individuals who have experienced traumatic events in an underwater setting. Erena decided to keep the focus on cancer survivors. Her reasoning was twofold. Not only would she be helping these women regain a new strength and self-esteem by being photographed in a majestic underwater setting, but she felt that working with these individuals could also help her in her own healing process.
She explained in a CBS interview that by gaining an understanding of how these cancer survivors overcame their own struggles both physically and psychologically, she hoped to come to terms with her own personal battles after the accident.
She successfully raised over $10,000 to support her project and has been traveling the West Coast to photograph various cancer survivors who have participated in the “Look Good, Feel Better” campaign.
Her most-recent shoot in Seattle, Washington was particularly memorable for her. Here, she worked with two women who beat cancer together and chose to be photographed alongside each other. Understanding their bond and the experiences they shared together through their cancers was quite impactful for Erena.
Yet she is not the only one who benefits from the sessions, her clients have testified as to the power of the underwater photo shoots and the impact they have had on their recovery process.
Bernadette Leno posted on the site www.ihadcancer.com, “the session with Erena made me realize that I am a beautiful, strong woman — and that was an incredible realization.”
Erena continues to raise money for the project and each day gains a better understanding of her own recovery process as well. She notes that during every shoot she learns something new, both about her clients and about herself. More details about the underwater photography sessions can be found on her website www.underwaterhealer.com.
-The Alternative Daily