Kathleen Wilke / photo by Can Türkyilmaz

“I didn’t know what to expect, and I went crazy when I saw the beautiful photos I was getting.” That’s how photographer Kathleen Wilke describes her first underwater photo shoot. The mother of four and former children’s portraiture photographer is now fully immersed (pardon the pun) in underwater fine art photography, a genre that produces stunning, surreal images. Wilke, who studied photography and illustration at the Art Academy of Cincinnati and the Art Institute of Boston, made the transition to fine art photography after suffering a stroke. “With the children’s photography, I was constantly busy and always moving, but after I got sick, I couldn’t work and was on the computer all the time,” says Wilke. During this time she explored industry-networking sites such as Flickr, where she met other photographers and discovered fine art photography. She learned about composition and editing, and soon gained the knowledge and confidence to start entering contests. In 2008 Wilke’s Lady of the Lake images won top spot at the W Hotel’s “UnSeen” photography contest for emerging artists. ”We did the shoot in my swimming pool using nothing but the pool light,” she says. Several underwater shoots later, Wilke is still searching for other creative avenues to explore. “I believe underwater fashion work would be perfect for me. I really want to get designers under water.” And she’s doing just that. She just photographed the fall collection from jewelry designer Stephanie Anne for Neiman Marcus. Next up, Wilke is shooting the Love is a Bungalow dress line from designer Nadja Bem. She would like to explore underwater children’s portraiture too. “I am always looking for other ways to make a living from photography, which is a job that makes me happy.”

Sign up for our newsletter!

* indicates required

• See more of Wilke’s images appear in our cover story.
• Visit her website, photographystudiok.com.