Creative mind, renowned Austrian advertising photographer and avid diver

Andreas Franke breathes life into sunken ships such as the Vandenberg and Mohawk that have found second lives as artificial reefs in Florida waters. He was in Key West last week, as one of the featured presenters of Art! Key West! His exhibit was on display at the Eco-Discovery Center, sponsored by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

“I wanted to bring together my diving career and photography career into something more. I wanted to shoot something underwater and display something underwater,” said Franke.

And that’s what he did.

Franke’s photographs of the sunken ships are then layered with landside shots that are carefully orchestrated to match the given space. Ballerinas, Victorian ladies and modern day dudes are superimposed o the underwater shops. Not content with this effect, Franke then submerged some of the finished works on the Vandenberg wreck allow sea life to finish the detailed decay.

“Before we brought them down they were as clear as plasma screen TVs and the life growing on top of them changed their appearance… something that cannot be created or reproduced,” he said.

By capturing images of the second biggest man-made natural reef in the world, he is also drawing a connection to man’s impact on the world. Although the life that once lived on it is gone, there is a new life and it is a rich ecosystem he explained. And despite there being numerous catastrophic occurrences toward the environment done by humans, there are scientists and activists that are making a difference and creating new homes for sea life.

Franke shot hundreds of images before choosing just a few. Then he directed actors at a photography studio to fill in the blank spaces.

“The shipwreck is the stage and there is a different scene with each image,” he said.

One work features a man lying on the couch watching TV in an athletic shirt; another is of a disturbed looking man in a wheelchair being pushed through the gloomy hallway of a ship 100 feet underwater for a truly eerie scene. Franke also incorporates animals sometimes while other photos depict events that could have taken place aboard the vessel when it was in use.

Franke said it took him a long time to shoot. The weather and sea conditions had to be perfect. The fish had to be in the right places and so did the camera angle. And the technical aspects of shooting underwater, including breathing, are completely different than when he works in a studio atmosphere

The most important takeaway from the entire collection is the promotion of diving and experiencing art in another dimension, underwater. To see more, visit

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