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Underwater Delights and Other Stories... - Feature: Sophia Disgrace

I first came across Swannee Vranckx's unique work, via the wonders of social media - namely Facebook! I was instantly drawn to her striking visual flair and distinctly retro style.

It wasn't long before we were corresponding via the usual channels -email and text- and the seeds for a truly exciting shoot began to flourish!

Swannee Vranckx interview

An underwater theme for the shoot was set - forget Ariel from 'The Little Mermaid', we were ready to add our own take on the Mermaid genre!

With the talents of MUA Stacey Singer and some rather spectacular set pieces and props, I was transformed into a daughter of the deep.... Post shoot I caught up with photographer and all round creative type, Swannee Vranckx to get a glimpse behind the visual splendour....

Your unique work suggests a highly creative mind - have you always found yourself drawn to the visual arts?

To answer to this question, I should go back to when I was a kid! I grew up in a very artistic family - my mother is a painter, and my Dad worked for the biggest theatre in Belgium. I think art is in my blood and it felt natural for me to pursue this as I got older!

I did try going to university, to learn more about French Literature & History, but it was too square for me, so I decided to study photography at Art College instead.

I thought that these studies would help me to realize all my creative fantasies, but I am still far from achieving them!

I really dream about being able to create all the decors, as I imagine them for my shoots. They are always such an important part of my shoots. I want them to be unique & real!

So, yes, I have always loved the visual arts, but I love them more when they are created from A to Z without the help of a computer...maybe it is my vintage side coming out! It is also why my work can be slow sometimes, but for me the authenticity is important & I love to work that way.

How did you develop an interest specifically in the medium of photography?

It's hard to answer to this! When I was a teenager, I remember that I wasn't really good at painting or anything, but I did like to write stories! However, it wasn't enough to express the images I was creating in my brain, I needed something to help me, like a hand!

I bought my first camera when I was 14 years old - the camera became my third hand and the perfect tool to translate imagination with!

I just loved beautiful images, I cannot explain why, it is when the heart is talking, you know.. a question of sensibility I guess...

Your photos promote a strong retro/vintage aesthetic - what's your favourite period pop culture wise and why?

Its hard to be specific, I find happiness and inspiration in many different periods throughout history! I think every period has something fantastic & interesting about it! But I have to admit, I have a slight preference for the '40s & the '50s! I love them, because everything was made with a certain 'look' in mind! You could say that the '20s and '80s were unique too - that's why I love them all I guess!!

I have learnt a lot from looking at retro pictures, from every style and period. For example, how a woman had to pose to look attractive, which element could be a reference and a symbol to say this or that in relation the final image those sort of things!

Who would be your dream subject model wise - living or otherwise!

Waw, I've never really thought about this! Haha! It's a very hard question. I admire many different artists and models and so to chose one would be very difficult!

I'm also not a 'fan' as such - there isn't one person I dream about every day... But I guess if I had a time machine, I would love to be a photographer on an old American movie set, to laugh a bit with Frankenstein, Vampira & the Addams Family and to see all of the amazing sets!

Alternative art by Swanee Vranckx

As a model myself, who has worked with a number of predominantly male photographers over the years, I found our shoot a refreshing change! Do you think female photographers offer a different perspective to their male counterparts?

Yes in a sense, because every photographer is different and so works in their own way, whether they are male or female. I know some male photographers, who have had problems finding a female model for shoots, because some models are more shy in front of a man! So maybe it's easier to be a female tog when shooting women! But again I guess it depends on the model, some girls don't have these concerns for example!

Ultimately, I try not to generalize anyone, people can have such different reactions to things! However, if there is no respect and the feeling isn't positive, you won't have a good shoot, regardless of the gender of the photographer!

A female photographer can sometimes bring a different perspective pose wise, because we know our body, we know which pose will be the best for our curves! I have also done some modelling myself, so this can help a lot too!

Our recent shoot had a mermaid theme, what's your favourite part of the shooting process? For example, as a model myself, I enjoy posing and helping to bring the photographers vision to life...

Well, I was very happy when we shot, because we simply exchanged a few words and you got the idea! I didn't have to overly explain the concept, so it was very easy and for me, this is best!

When a model knows exactly what she's got to do to bring the image to life, the image in my head, I really enjoy the shoot! Sometimes it can be really hard to show and explain the final idea! Everyone involved needs to 'get' the creative process!

What are your plans for the future and what advice would you give to any budding photographers out there?

My biggest dream is to work with an agency. I hope one day to be able to work as a photographer full time, to be able to make a living from it! I dream of using my imagination & skills as a service to people who need an image bought to life...

Other plans for the future include; doing some more photoshoots, both as a photographer and as a model!

One day I met the amazing Joel Peter Witkin, my mentor. He told one thing and I would be very selfish to keep it only for myself so here you go; 'Always be yourself & all will be ok!'

To close the interview can you please complete the following sentence- 'At night I dream of....'

Marilyn Monroe said one day, 'The nicest thing for me is sleep, then at least I can dream.' I really see myself in this sentence! I have many, many dreams... but the first one is to stay strong and be happy everyday! Sometimes this can be hard work hahaha! But life is too short for bad feelings, isn't it?

For now at night I dream of success! To keep things simple! Hahaha!

Find more of Swannee's amazing work at

Image credits:

Photographer: Swannee Vranckx | Model: Sophia Disgrace | MUA: Stacey Singer MUA | With thanks to Geisha Wigs (now Lush Wigs) for the lovely wig as modelled by Sophia Disgrace!.