Last year, Austrian Andreas Franke, an avid diver and professional photographer, explored the Vandenberg shipwreck off Key West, Florida taking several photos of the sunken ship. When he returned to Austria and examined his shots, Franke had an interesting idea. The ship, which was sunk as an artificial reef, would find a renewed purpose.
“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.”
As of Wednesday, the 522 ft former military ship became an underwater art exhibit titled “”Vandenberg: Life Below the Surface.” Divers used strong magnets to attach 12 of Franke’s digitally layered photographs to the starboard side at a depth of 93 ft. The images are encased in 3 millimeter plexiglass and mounted in stainless steel frames sealed with silicone to keep out water. No harmful materials were used in the installation or exhibit.
Franke’s images provide a stark contrast to the industrial metal of the shipwreck. One picture depicts a girl wielding a butterfly net to capture fish shown in an original underwater image of the wreck. In another, a couple is waltzing inside the ship, while a bartender is pouring a drink for a patron.
Divers examine photographs by Austrian photographer Andreas Franke along the deck of Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg artificial reef, August 4, 2011.
Divers swim above the former missile-tracking ship, May 21, 2010.
A preview dive for journalists, May 29, 2009.
Former U.S. Air Force missile-tracking ship Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg sinks beneath the surface of the ocean after cutting charges were detonated seven miles off Key West, Florida, May 27, 2009.
The exhibit’s official website is expected to be finished in two weeks. It will feature photos and videos of the installation. The site will also include information about ordering prints of the images that are displayed on the wreck.