In 1938, a young photographer named Bruce Mozert was on his way to a shoot in Miami when he got word Johnny Weissmuller was filming his latest Tarzan flick at Silver Springs, Marion County. Mozert took a detour on the off-chance he might get a few good snaps of the former Olympic champion and box office star—or at the very least shake his hand. He managed both. When he shook Weissmuller’s hand, the Tarzan actor lifted the twenty-one year off the ground and straight up into the air. This incredible feat of athleticism wasn’t the only thing which impressed Mozert on his day trip. In Silver Spring he had found a beautiful and idyllic location in which to make his career as an underwater photographer.
Silver Springs is the site of one of the largest artesian spring formations in the world. It is said to produce an estimated total of some 550 million gallons of crystal-clear water daily. The beauty of these waters was the kicker for Mozert. They appeared so perfect, so beautiful, so clear that he knew he had to devise a unique and original way to incorporate the springs into his photographic work.
He moved into nearby city of Ocala where he set about building a box-like waterproof housing for his camera. He then started taking subaquatic pictures of employees from Silver Springs Park, who acted as his underwater models. Mozert photographed his models doing everyday things underwater—frying fish, drinking a champagne cocktail, reading a paper, and so on. He used various homemade special effects to make it all seem almost real. Condensed milk was used to create smoke for barbecuing fish—“The fat in the milk would cause it to rise, creating ‘smoke’ for a long time.” Alka Seltzer provided the bubbles for the champagne. Anything was possible—“All you got to do is use your imagination.”
Via Smithsonian and Flashbak.