InsideOut is a creative outlet for Lower Merion High School students to both inspire and be inspired by artwork. It serves as a platform to display and discuss art, including work within the Lower Merion Community and beyond.

Artist Spotlight - Julia Lehman


The Underwater World

As a photographer and artist for over 20 years, I am always looking for new and creative ways to express myself. I am thrilled to share with you my newest work, The Underwater World Portrait Series. My work has always incorporated all the elements of nature, including water. However, it wasn’t until my family and I renovated an old pool that the inspiration to completely submerge myself, my camera, and my models became a possibility and a new passion.

The following interview was conducted by Gabby Van Hollander on May 18th, 2016. Julia Lehman's work and contact information can be found on her website at .


Why are you so interested in underwater photography?

I became interested in underwater photography as a new creative outlet. I have been a professional photographer for over 20 years, (but have had a camera in my hand since I was 14yrs old).I have always used my camera as a personal spiritual tool, a way to open my mind and heart to new creative ways of expressing myself. When my family moved to West Mt.Airy we had this pool that needed to be renovated and it struck me that I wanted to start shooting underwater. (I had dabbled in underwater photography many years prior when I was 23, working on a  Dive boat in Cozumel, Mexico).

Have you ever had a near-death experience doing this job?

I have had a few close calls with almost passing out underwater since I hold my breath but nothing too scary. I try to remind myself that I don’t have gills!  LOL!

Are there defined “themes” of the photoshoots? Are they your ideas or the models ideas?

I always have an idea of what I’m going to attempt to shoot underwater. There’s a lot of preparation before each shoot so I have ideas about props, backdrops, the model and how I want for them to look. That being said, being underwater is way different then shooting out of water and working with buoyancy, things floating everywhere like hair and fabric, can make for a challenging but also very exciting creatively. I love shooting underwater since there’s so many things I’m not in control of and the reason why I like it. I also really enjoy the light and how it ripples on skin and the reflections on the surface look like abstract paintings.

Are you picky when it comes to picking photos?

I am particular about editing. I also shoot a Ton of photos to make sure I get everything I want out of a shoot so my post production tends take me many hours to complete one shoot. Each underwater shoot takes approx. 3 hours depending on what I’m shooting.

Where do you think photography will take you in the future?

I am hoping to attain more underwater clientele and higher- end advertisement clients with this work. Also, I always enjoy working directly with “everyday people” who just want something very unique, personal and highly creative about themselves on their walls. I enjoy collaborating and doing my best to listen to my clients ideas also and to merge with my ideas to create work that empowers them.



What is your favorite/least favorite type of photography? (style)

Ha,Ha,Ha, Well, let’s just say I’m a bit burned out from shooting weddings for over 20 yrs. I decided 2 years ago to close my wedding photography business and am happier that I’ve done it. The reason being is it’s very stressful work, very long days and being a mom, I was missing my weekends being with my kids. I realized I’m not getting that time back with them so I had to do it. I do enjoy the variety of work that I get requested to do and think that’s how I’ve kept passionate about photography for so long. Everyday is totally unique, whether I’m shooting Interiors, Professional Headshots, Babies/Families, Stock photography for Comcast or Underwater, I enjoy it all. The most Creative/Unique work that I’m passionate about is my Underwater photography.


Did you ever have any objections to a shoot? If so what did you do?

I’m careful with how I present an idea to a client. Since they are commissioning me, I ask them what their comfort level is with nudity and their comfort level being underwater. I never tell them to do anything they are not comfortable with. But it’s a bit different when I am working with models for my personal work. If I want to do nudes, I will find a model that will be into it and also any other ideas that I may have.  I would never force anything in a shoot or make anyone uncomfortable. That’s not me nor would the photos turn out good if the model is feeling uncomfortable! There’s a lot of psychology that goes into what I do. The more comfortable the model is the better then photos will turn out. So in a round about way to answer your question, I rarely have any objections since we have discussed everything prior to the shoot.:)

Have you had any terrible customers?

So far, So good! No terrible clients yet! lol! I do my best to ask a lot of questions and give them a lot of info prior to the session to help prevent any uncomfortableness and to help make sure we are all on the same page before the shoot. Creating storyboards or a list of ideas together are very helpful.

Has a customer ever wanted a photo that you genuinely believed would come out bad?

I’ve had some strange requests for sure but nothing that I couldn’t either explain to them why it wouldn’t work the way they envision OR that I’ll encourage them to take a different angle on it and do my thing to make their “idea” work better.