Murnaghan’s new exhibit, photography book document aquatic artistry

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Murnaghan’s new exhibit, photography book document aquatic artistry

The latest professional endeavor by Lucas Murnaghan, an artist profiled in Physique Pictorial Vol. 44 with his images of models immersed in shimmering water pools, has already made a splash with his new photography book. 

Having already sold out of his pre-sale inventory to buyers around the world, the Toronto, Ontario-based artist’s book, Beneath the Surface, is available for purchase online; the book’s official release will coincide with a 6 p.m. Feb. 21 launch party and gallery opening at Surf the Greats (a surf shop that Murnaghan and his husband jointly own), where Murnaghan’s first solo exhibition will open on the same day. That exhibit runs until March 2. 

A sensitive aesthetic

For Murnaghan, already an experienced triathlete and free diver, both the book and the gallery exhibit are the culmination of years of photographing models underwater without the use of additional scuba equipment, allowing him to freely connect with the men as an artist. Murnaghan’s settings and imagery allow the viewer to enter another world, free of societal constraints, as he explores the vulnerability and sensitivity inherent in his masculine subjects and their portrayal. 

On dry land, Murnaghan works as an orthopedic surgeon, a vocation in which nearly all questions may be addressed with answers born from science, research, and quantitative data. The very subjective nature of art, however, lets the physician travel to another realm through his lens, where answers aren’t always so clear, and where all images and messages are fair game for interpretation. 

“As the subject slips beneath the surface, traditional constraints and conventions are removed and he himself becomes free from earth-bound conceptions and societal norms.” Murnaghan explains.  “With the rules changed, my subjects are liberated to explore themselves in a parallel universe and express what lies beneath.”

A hallmark in his career

Murnaghan’s works were introduced to Physique Pictorial readers last year, and Murnaghan says that experience stood as a helpful step in his evolution of promoting his images to a wider audience. 

“It was an incredible honour to be invited to participate in the Physique Pictorial series.  I have always admired the pioneering work of Bob Mizer – and to be considered in the same sentence, let alone publication, remains a real highlight of my career as an artist,” Murnaghan says. “It’s hard to know how or where people find out about one’s work – but I have certainly heard back from fans and collectors since then, that it was through the Bob Mizer Foundation that they were introduced to my photography.”

The duality of being

While Physique Pictorial readers were receiving their first exposure to Murnaghan’s underwater world and its denizens, the artist says he carefully considered the themes and messages he wished for his book to convey. 

“For this project, I chose to work exclusively with male subjects due to my autobiographical underpinnings, but also to challenge myself to portray a sensitivity and vulnerability less often expressed with male subjects.  As a gay man, I have always kept my professional life and personal life distinctly separate, my own sensitivity and vulnerability compartmentalized so as not to ruffle any feathers,” Murnaghan notes. “Though out and proud, I lived as an invisible minority, moving between worlds seamlessly, but always with a sense of duality.”  

He continues, “In my development as an artist, I have come to learn that I could merge my ‘two halves’ to fuel my inspiration and aesthetic.  In the images you see in this collection, I explore this duality by pairing notions of vulnerability with confidence, shame with pride, solitude with connection. I feel grateful to now be able to express myself wholly through my work and convey the male form and all facets of emotion through my personal lens.”

From the smartphone to the gallery wall

Now, with not one but two major milestones in his artistic career occurring on the same day, Murnaghan says he is humbled by the attention and accolades he continues to receive from fans and collectors alike. 

“It’s all quite overwhelming, to be honest!  When I started this underwater journey two years ago – I never could have imagined that I would be exhibiting the pieces, let alone putting them together in a book,” Murnaghan says. “At the same time, over the past year, I began to realize how important it was to move my work off the little screens of smartphones and onto a grander scale.  The tangible nature of the photobook definitely excites me as I grew up in an analogue age – and I feel that we must maintain these types of physical pieces as art evolves in the 21st century.”

About the book: Beneath the Surface

  • Nearly 100 pages containing 70 curated images
  • Preface by the author and foreword by Alan Cumming
  • Personal responses by collaborators
  • Now available online -- Purchase your copy here. Official book launch is Feb. 21 (see related information below). 

About the exhibit and book release event:

  • Book launch party and gallery opening event is 6 p.m. Feb. 21, at Surf the Greats, 250 Carlaw Ave., Unit 101, Toronto, ON, Canada, M4M 3L1.
  • Party to include craft beer by East Bound Brewery, light refreshments by The Fix TO, and music by DJ Phillippe.
  • Exhibit runs Feb. 21 to March 2
  • Free and open to the public

For more information, contact Murnaghan on Twitter and Instagram (@lucasmurnaghan) or at