Breathing, reflecting, adapting: Denisse Ariana Pérez’s Agua

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“There is a liberating feeling that water can have, there is a connectivity that it can provide”

Three years ago, Denisse Ariana Pérez had a spiritual experience while meditating. “I was travelling through Ecuador and Peru with my aunt, who is a shamanic woman,” she explains. “I suddenly felt so connected to water, and I wanted to bring that feeling to others. There is a liberating feeling that water can have, there is a connectivity that it can provide. It can detach you from facades or personas. My work changed, I think it solidified. It became more purposeful.”

Agua, published by Guest Editions, is the expression of this new purpose. The series explores the relationship between human bodies and water, demonstrating the bond between the two. “I wanted to explore nature and healing, our connection to water, and the freedom it can bring,” she explains. Pérez uses water as therapy, allowing it to hold and embrace the human body. 

“The project began with men, specifically men of colour,” Pérez explains. “I grew up around men. I could see their nuances, how multifaceted they can be.” But to describe the men of Agua as a subversion of masculinity would be reductive – Pérez creates a space in which gender and identity can be comfortably explored. When in the water, the men find peace. 

Shooting in Uganda, Denmark and Senegal, Pérez continued her investigations. She created ethereal work that taps into something primal; water becomes a home, a place where one can rest, and take a break from the weight of solidity. “For me, it’s a very foetal state,” Pérez explains. “It’s easy to exist in.” The world stops, and the outside shell slips away.

10 per cent of the profits from Agua will go towards the charity Face Africa

Isaac Huxtable

Isaac Huxtable joined the British Journal of Photography in October 2020, where he is currently the Editorial Assistant. Prior to this, he studied a BA in History of Art at the Courtauld Instititue of Art, London.