This weekend I discovered the extraordinary story of the photograph that appears on the cover of “Chasing the Light”, and as many people have commented on and asked about the cover, I thought I’d share it with you.
Many non-writers think that it is authors who design the covers of their books, but in fact it is the publishers. This can be quite a tricky process, because contractually the publisher has the final decision on cover design. Luckily HarperCollins has been a brilliant partner in this, taking my comments and suggestions very seriously and changing the photo in response. I’ve heard of other authors who have barely been consulted about their covers.
Anyway, I really love the image of a woman suspended in the water underneath sea ice on the front of the book but all I knew was that it was a stock photo. When I studied the image I couldn’t imagine how it would have been shot, and so I presumed it had been Photoshopped. I even thought perhaps the woman in the image was a dummy.
It turns out, I was completely wrong. The photograph was taken by Victor Lyagushkin of Russia, a photographer for National Geographic and Nikon, and part of Phototeam Pro, a Russian group that specialises in extreme media projects in remote places. The woman under the water is Natalia Avseenko, a thirty six year old Russian who’s twice won the world freediving championships (in 2006 and 2008).
The shoot was done in the White Sea in Northern Russia, under ice, at a water temperature of around -2 degrees Celsius (salt water freezes at a lower temperature than freshwater). Natalie was freediving below the frozen surface of the sea with a safety diver providing air when she needed it.
In another shoot that was part of the same project, Natalie swam naked with Beluga Whales, which was the realization of her childhood dream. (see more about this project HERE) This had more reverberations with “Chasing the Light” than I ever could have imagined – bringing in whales, ice, childhood longing and female courage.
So – below are some photos of the shoot, courtesy of Phototeam.pro, where Victor works. Please check out Phototeam Pro’s web post responding to my question about the cover HERE. If you have a bit of time, you can watch the half hour documentary about Natalie’s swim with the Beluga Whales on Youtube. It’s quite extraordinary to see her sitting naked on the edge of the ice while around her everyone is bundled in extreme cold weather clothing.