Austrian artist Andreas Franke, an avid diver and professional photographer, has put up a photo exhibition at a depth of 93 feet on the Vandenberg shipwreck off Key West.
Franke explored the Vandenberg – a 523-foot former military ship – last year, and took several photos of the wreck. When he returned to Austria and examined his photos, Franke wanted to add life to what he saw as a dead ship, which was sunk as an artificial reef.
"Even though there is so much life, marine life, all over and around it, the shipwreck itself, to me, is a dead thing," Franke said. "But I thought that if I put people on it, then there would again be life on that ship."
So, he digitally added people to his photographs of the wrecked ship – a little girl on the weather deck, holding a butterfly net, as if trying to capture some of the fish swimming around, a couple waltzing inside the ship, and a bartender is pouring a drink for a passenger. Twelve oversized artistic images encased in 3 millimeter plexiglass and mounted in stainless steel frames sealed with silicone were then attached to the starboard side with strong magnets.
"We installed the images right where all the dive boats and dive masters take their divers, and they're along the weather deck, where divers can easily pull themselves along the railing that's there," said Joe Weatherby, who worked for 12 years securing permits, raising money and preparing the Vandenberg for its May 2009 sinking. “The 12 images are spaced along 200 feet of the ship, just aft of amidships -- basically in the middle.”
The exhibition will last for a few weeks, depending on how people respond.
The 523-foot-long Vandenberg was sunk on May 27, 2009 in the marine sanctuary off Key West in Florida, and is the second largest ship in the world to be intentionally sunk to create an artificial reef to attract recreational divers and anglers. About 70 percent of the $8.6 million budget was expended to rid the vessel of contaminants before it was scuttled. Soon after being plunged into the sea, Vandenberg was opened to the public on May 30, 2009.
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