Janeanne Gilchrist

I have always had a fascination with the sea, I love to be beside it, in it, on top or under it. I find it therapeutic. Salt water washes away the humdrum of daily life and boosts my creativity.

As a child, I always wanted to be an explorer and dreamed about galaxies far away, now I have discovered a galaxy on my doorstep. Floating in a moving current is the closest you can get to flying in outer space and this makes part of my work.

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It is important to note when diving a new or unknown location you always check the local weather, surf and tide forecast. Try to prepare a dive plan with a realistic timetable with an exit plan if anything goes wrong. Make sure you stay within your limits and, if anything goes wrong, stop the dive. Rather be safe than sorry. Being alone in the sea you quickly realise how small you are. Once you get a handle on the tides and weather the choice is how much time do you want to spend getting there and how much time to spend in the water. We try not to dive near river mouths or built-up areas where the water clarity might be affected.

Free diving is a fairly inexpensive sport but it's important to get the right equipment – diving in Scotland is naturally cold. You can dive in the hardcore winter months but there's not a lot of life on the reefs and the water visibility can be affected. We do most of our diving between April and November.

In Scotland, I mainly dive depths of five to 15 metres. It’s not crazy extreme deep, but this is where you can still find good visibility and where most life on the reef will be on show.

We've found that 7mm free-diving wetsuits with socks and gloves are a must to keep your core toasty. A good low-profile mask, simple snorkel, weight belt and good free-diving flippers make a huge difference if you want to reach deeper depths.

Over many years of diving, I have noticed the creep of manmade waste intruding into this underwater world. Unfortunately, I don’t think a lot of people know what’s going on under the waves and this has been one of my focuses on my long-term project.

On Above Below Beyond we wanted to dive around Scotland's coast and find out for ourselves if this was endemic as predicted. We can report back that unfortunately it is. Everywhere we dived there were signs of plastic pollution either in the water or on the shore line.

I wanted to create work that was new and exciting and would challenge people whether they like the work or not. It will have achieved the goal of talking openly about this larger problem in our natural word.

When I started shooting in the water I used a bag. Not any old bag but one that had been constructed for water use. It cost around £500 and that was 10 years ago. I still have it and it still works but I wouldn’t dive with it.

The best moments are every time you get over a learning curve and you realise how far you can push your personal boundaries. These might not be big but over time they stack up. You never know really what you are going to see or find and how your body is going to cope in a situation. A couple of weeks ago we had an opportunity to share a special moment with a pod of east coast bottle-nose dolphins. They were feeding around us and you could feel their clicks and sonars underwater. It was a fantastic sight and an awesome encounter.

Janeanne Gilchrist's exhibition, Above Below Beyond, runs until March 24, 2018 at the Fergusson Gallery, Perth