Bruce Mozert’s imaginative underwater photography captured a bygone era and a unique time in not only Florida’s past, but also in the postwar years of America. In the remarkably clear waters of Silver Springs in central Florida, Mozert pioneered underwater photography by developing waterproof housings for cameras that allowed photography to go deep below water while also perfecting lighting techniques. For over four decades he composed scenes with submerged people doing seemingly everyday yet dreamlike activities given the underwater context. Mozert’s meticulous production values and surreal vision composing the scenes resulted in many of the most clever and attention grabbing images in the mid-twentieth century. As a result of Mozert’s highly original images, Silver Springs was established as Florida’s premier tourist destination during the 1950s and came to symbolize an era before the days of Disney World.
Mozert was born in Ohio in 1916 and moved to New York to become a photographer at a young age. In 1938, while en route to Miami, he stopped at the Florida state park Silver Springs where a Tarzan movie was being filmed. He quickly realized there was no way to take underwater pictures except for a small tank which held one cameraman. So he built his own waterproof camera case, thought to be the first of its kind. It allowed him to go deep below the surface of the springs in the incredibly clear waters and capture these domestic scenes, with a playful twist. Mozert’s pictures came out so well that he took his invention to Hollywood, where he continued to develop his ideas – including the first high-speed camera case and first underwater lighting. His images have been in Life, Look, and National Geographic. Later in life Mozert continued to develop the photographs he took all those years ago, but presented them in a larger and more immersive format. He died in 2015 at the age of 98 near Silver Springs, Florida. Truly a symbol of the time the images come from, Mozert’s original underwater photographs from Silver Springs are a remnant of a unique period and capture the feeling of postwar Americana.