A Chinese woman in her early twenties poses in a faux 19th century English parlor. Thick mascara shades her eyes and she wears a black Victorian dress with puffy sleeves and a matching hat. Although she doesn’t smoke, a slim cigarette holder is delicately balanced in one of her elegantly gloved hands.
After striking a pose, she changes outfits – sometimes several times – donning imperial Chinese garb, qipao, or a wedding dress even if she is single (the photos may – though not always – be intended to address that).
She isn’t a model, though the level of attention in this photo shoot suggests otherwise. She later posts her photos on Weibo for all her friends to see.
Welcome to the world of artistic portrait photography, a favorite pastime for many young women in China. While all of the above may sound like the bases were well covered for imaginative merit, this kind of artistic portrait photography has been taken to another level by some forward-looking studio portrait photographers. Or more accurately, they’ve been taken underwater.
Lying next to an artificial beach is passé, according to a report by China Daily; now, some women are actually diving into tanks of water, wearing full-blown mermaid outfits complete with tails.
"It was a completely different experience," Zhang Xiaomei told China Daily after her first such experience. "You get the feeling that you're cut off from the rest of the world. But also it's romantic and like a fairy tale."
According to the report, photographer Ai Cheng spotted the trend and opened No 55 Underwater Photography in Songjiang, a suburb of Shanghai, actually building a five-meter deep pool, complete with heating facilities to accommodate the onslaught of potential female customers born in the 1980s and 1990s who want to be a mermaid for a day.
While the prospect of swimming in a wedding dress, tuxedo or mermaid outfit may sound risky, Ai pointed out that there is at least a 30-minute briefing on how to open your eyes underwater and smile without drinking copious amounts of water.
The prospects of drowning aside, some hapless men, including Zhang’s fiancé, are dragged to these photo shoots for wedding pictures. Zhang asked, “Can you imagine a 1.87-meter-tall man trying out the mermaid tail under the water?"