Please click and drag the white arrows to see my underwater transformation.
My name is Zi Gattina. I’m 25 years old and was born in San Francisco, CA.
I’m a survivor of rape and domestic violence, and now suffer from C-PTSD. Over the years, I’ve done my best to heal by attending therapy with a therapist I was compatible with, identified what I need to cope, utilised art to process, and surrounded myself with people that inspire me. I wanted to be involved in the Underwater Healer project for a variety of reasons – I respect Erena’s work as an artist and think her photography is beautiful, I love the healing aspect, and I’ve always had a fascination with water. I’d never considered that underwater photography could be therapeutic but it personally makes sense, as I always gravitated towards water after a traumatic event.
Erena and I spoke in depth about the concept and we were both excited to use shibari in our session. Aside from the concept, my plans were just to stay as level headed as possible and to take in the experience. Working with Erena is an incredibly unique opportunity and I wanted to approach it with an open mind.
Prior to the session, I honestly felt a bit nervous. I’ve never done a shoot where I’d be completely submerged in water before and I’m not a strong swimmer. I worried I wouldn’t be able to overcome my hesitations and would thus ruin the photos. Thankfully, Erena assured me that it wouldn’t be a problem after I disclosed my hesitations.
The shoot was wonderful, albeit not easy. The warmth of the pool was comforting and felt amazing, and Erena was the perfect person to undergo this with. She was a fantastic and thorough coach – the instructions she offered on how to efficiently sink and avoid inhaling too much water while posing were exactly what I needed. I still feel that I struggled a bit being in such a new environment, but Erena’s compassion and assurance did wonders in boosting my confidence. She was a positive and supportive presence throughout the entirety of the shoot – she was never negative, was always encouraging, and frequently checked in to make sure I was still doing well.
After the shoot, I felt better than I imagined I would. I was energised and felt ready to take on the world, even with my eyes feeling dry. The shoot was fun and relaxing, and I was excited to see the final results. I felt more at peace with myself, which I would entirely attribute to Erena and her kindness. This experience reminded me that the world is still full of kind, supportive people and amazing experiences, and not to shut myself off from it. I believe these sessions can be very effective in overcoming trauma for some people as beauty can be found during the entire experience, both during the shoot and in the final photos.
Water has always been important to me – it cleanses spiritually, the sounds of the ocean are soothing, the way it moves is mesmerising, and it gives life to beautiful creatures (and some of my favourite foods). I’ll always be drawn to water but this experience was special. I would undoubtedly be open to doing it again.