The opportunity arose to partner up with Black Dot Films and National Geographic on creating still images for a virtual reality (VR) project profiling a behind the scenes look at the mermaids of Weeki Wachee. It was one of those projects that I said yes to knowing I would be privy to the unknown, to something truly special.
Weeki Wachee is an enchanted natural spring where mermaids swim — the only one of its kind in the world — and one of Florida’s most legendary and unique family destinations. There is so much natural beauty on display, if you lift the veil of kitsch and see this place as I got to see it, as an evocative, beautiful and mysterious destination where you can let go of cynicism and believe in the unbelievable.
Working as a complement to a VR project was a new challenge – and a pretty wide open one. The National Geographic filming had already taken place by the time I took my solo trip to Weeki Wachee to photograph. I went in without explicit marching orders, though I had gotten the chance to see a bit of their footage, which gave me a sense of what they were going for. Going in with just a sliver of expectation was ultimately permission to experience this place with wonder. I took it in and made photographs hoping to tell a piece of the story with each image.
The project takes viewers into the waters, behind the scenes of this enchanted spring – a fountain of youth for roadside Americana some 70 years young. Part character study, part nostalgic love story to a surviving piece of American tourism, the VR film and accompanying still photographs take viewers to the answer – “is it real?” Who cares, you’ll want to believe.