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Aging Divers Make Waves on Instagram

david-alen-harveyA couple of years ago, someone asked photographer David Alan Harvey, now 70 and something of a legend, how he feels about the digital age. Here’s how Harvey responded: “The new technology doesn’t phase me a bit. A picture is a picture is a picture, whether it’s on film or digital,” he said. “I had to learn how to use [digital], and the new platforms of online social media…. I’m very comfortable with Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, all that stuff, and the digital age is fine.”

Harvey might have added Instagram to his social media list. In 2011 he joined the mobile photo-sharing site (think Facebook, but picture-centric) and started sharing his images. A prolific and passionate photographer well known for his work with National Geographic and Magnum – two of his photos were sent into space aboard Voyager – he uses Instagram to start conversations about his projects.

This month, Harvey has been making Instagram waves with his latest project – a black-and-white photo essay on the Haenyeo, a group of female free divers in Jeju Island, South Korea who since childhood have been deep diving for seafood, using no scuba equipment. Most of the Haenyeo are over 60; some are in their 80s.

You can follow Harvey’s story with the Haenyo via his Instagram posts from the past week in Jeju. (Click on Comments under each caption to read the conversations.)

The now famous Haenyeo from Jeju Island, S Korea get ready to jump from a fast moving boat into the sea and free dive down perhaps 50 ft in search of a variety of delicacy shellfish. These 60-80 year old women have been working together like this since they were teenagers and can hold their breath in the deep for around two minutes. I am amazed every morning these days more and more at these strong women and the boat disembarking resembles a precision military SEAL operation! It’s clearly hard physical work and yet the women seem happy and are constantly joking and laughing with each other. They are highly respected in their communities. This will be the last generation of Haenyeo. The young now seek another life. I am honored to be in their presence.

A photo posted by David Alan Harvey (@davidalanharvey) on

One swim fin kick and a Haenyeo heads for the bottom. I am now starting to get into the water with these women free divers. In water and underwater photography is not my thing, yet I just cannot finish this essay without a few symbolic water shots. So with a too tight wetsuit, mask, and fins down I will go into the rocky depths with the mother & daughter from yesterday’s Instagram. I will use a scuba tank so I can stay down awhile and attempt what I generally leave for my underwater expert buddies at NatGeo to do. The ladies will be after octopus and abalone. I will mostly be in survival mode and trying to get a meaningful picture at the same time. That’s often the photographers life. I know I am in good hands.#SouthKorea #Haenyeo #Jeju A photo posted by David Alan Harvey (@davidalanharvey) on

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