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Exclusive: Model Amber Arbucci talks new photo exhibition

Amber Arbucci poses with one of the photographs in the exhibit.
Getty Images

Today on May 10, 2014 we are excited to share our exclusive interview with Victoria Secret model Amber Arbucci. Amber has been called fearless by countless people and not in reference to strutting the runway scantly clad. She’s called fearless for how she follows her passions: animals, photography and adventure. In April 2013, Amber spent a grueling 7 hours photographing herself nude with 5 million jellyfish in the western Pacific island country of Palau. That doesn’t sound too difficult until you realize that she did this solo with no assistants or other photographers, while holding her breath (yes no oxygen tanks were used here). The result was a mystical series of photographs dubbed "The Girl at Jellyfish Lake" depicting the powerful yet fragile existence of the underwater world's most ancient species.

In collaboration with BILLBOARD4, a landmark project devoted to public art, and the Waterkeeper Alliance charity, Amber Arbucci unveiled a massive 100 foot photograph in Astor Place on the side of the 65 Fourth Avenue building entitled "The Silent Medusa" taken from her iconic series "The Girl at Jellyfish Lake." In conjunction with the giant work, a selection of images from "The Girl at Jellyfish Lake" will also be in residence for a month on the main floor at the W New York- Times Square at Gerber Group’s Living Room, and will be unveiled at the hotel throughout May.

We sat down with Amber at unveiling of her one-month exhibit at The Living Room at the W Hotel – Times Square to learn more about this adventurous beauty.

Q: The photos on display are exquisite. How did you get into photography?

Amber: I started photography when I was 14 but importantly working with animals was something I wanted to do since I was a child. I always dreamed about doing it. I told my parents I wanted to do it. I even wrote a letter when I was 12 years old to a missionary team in Kenya saying I would give out Bibles just to get there. We lived on a farm, didn’t have passports and they laughed at my idea. I told them, “I’ve figured it out. I’m going to Africa”. They wrote back and told me to reapply when I was 18.

Q: Did you learn photography on your own or as a model?

Amber: On my own! Any allowance I had, I spent on getting film, practicing with different exposures, getting it developed. That’s where my allowance went. Then of course, modeling. Absolutely, working with some of the most iconic and influential photographers in the world, I paid very close attention and it did help.

Q: How did you get into modeling? Was it because of your interest in photography?

Amber: Kind of. Yeah. I never wanted to be a model. I was always trying to figure out how to travel the world. I actually went to college to study medicine and thought I would be a Doctors Without Borders. That was just too hard. I started doing modeling and got to travel the world and the money supported what I wanted to do. Now my art is supporting itself. I’m still modeling a little but I’m so busy with this, I don’t always have time.

Q; What inspired this exhibit? Did the Waterkeeper Alliance approach you?

Amber: I shot these photos about 10 months ago, I’ve already showed at Art Basel Miami. We decided to this here for Waterkeepers. There is a wall in Astor Place going up. I’m so excited to see it but I kind of think it’s going to be weird seeing my face 100 foot big.

Q: What was it like spending all that time with jellyfish. We’ve heard you’re fearless.

Amber: The jellyfish don’t scare me. A little fact about them is that they don’t really sting like typical jellyfish. They do sting a little but it tingles more like what a man o’war would do. That I had going for me.

Q: Did you get stung?

Amber: I did. From head to toe. I was all swollen, my eyes were swollen. I couldn’t really even walk actually.

Q: How did you do the pictures of yourself?

Amber: I held the camera out but with some I used a shelf along the wall of the lake. I set the timer and held my breath while performing in front of the camera.

Q: What’s next for you?

Amber: I’m directing my first short film and I have another art project that will be very, very fantasy in a location in a part of the world that hasn’t really been discovered. It’s so fantastic. I don’t want to talk too much about the idea yet but the location reminds me of Salvador Dali.

The full body of work from The Girl at Jellyfish Lake will be on view at the Amber Arbucci pop-up gallery experience at 129 Fouth avenue from May 16 until June 1, 2014. Following the launch a limited edition numbered and signed print edition of The Silent Medusa will be released in conjunction with BILLBOARD4.

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