‘The Sinking Fear’
Actress and model Eva Mendez, dressed in a couture gown, swims in front of a Mercedes GL450 in an image called ‘The Sinking Fear.’
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updated 10/26/2006 5:29:57 PM ET 2006-10-26T21:29:57

Automotive engineers are notoriously tough on the pre-production vehicles they test and evaluate, but suspension-busting terrain and subzero temperatures seem tame compared to what photographer Michael Muller did to a Mercedes-Benz SUV in the name of art: He submerged a $63,000 (including options) 2007 GL450 in a giant water tank as part of an art project titled “Quiet,” which includes photographs of objects and people submerged in water. It was all done in the name of charity.

The ethereal image (above), titled “The Sinking Fear,” shows actress and model Eva Mendez in a couture gown swimming in front of the GL450. The SUV was Muller’s only four-wheeled subject. Other photographs show things like money floating in water — a photo titled “First Blood” — and synchronized swimmers in red bathing suits. In “Quiet,” Muller aims to portray the enveloping stillness and silence one experiences underwater.

Twenty-five prints of “The Sinking Fear” are for sale, along with prints of other photographs in the “Quiet” project. All of the proceeds will be donated to The Art of Elysium in Universal City, Calif., which is handling the sales. (Muller didn’t quote a price for the prints but said interested parties could contact The Art of Elysium’s James Gilbert via e-mail at info@theartofelysium.org or go to www.theartofelysium.org for more information.)

Founded in 1997, The Art of Elysium is a non-profit organization that encourages actors, artists and musicians to volunteer their time and talent, as Muller did, to benefit children battling serious medical conditions.

“We wanted to incorporate Mercedes-Benz into the exhibit as a way to thank them for their generous support of The Art of Elysium,” said founder Jennifer Howell.

When approached by Howell about how to weave Mercedes-Benz into the project, Muller said: “The only way that I’ll do that is if they sink a car underwater … Two minutes later it hit me; on my shoot list was to have a model descending from a car in a couture gown.”

Going against every automotive enthusiast’s sense of vehicular sanctity, Muller had the chutzpah to request a 1950s Mercedes-Benz 300 SL for the shoot, which the company (thankfully) declined to provide. Mercedes-Benz came back with a pre-production 2007 GL450 instead that fit Muller’s artistic vision.

Although submerging a 5,249-pound vehicle might sound simple given its considerable weight, it wasn’t.

“I had to find the car, organize the logistics of a crane to lower the vehicle into the tank and arrange for the vehicle to be prepped for dropping it into the water,” said Mercedes-Benz spokesperson Larkin Hill. The pre-dunk prep was limited to flushing all fluids from the engine and transmission.

“After rigging up the GL450 to the crane, we dropped it in the tank and I jumped in with my gear to start shooting,” said Muller, who is a certified scuba diver and used a digital single-lens-reflex camera for the “Quiet” project. At first, the GL450 just floated and took some time to completely submerge. Its buoyancy made it so Muller didn’t have to rush to get shots. At one point, he even climbed on the roof to help speed the submersion process.

“I alone was able to easily position the 5,000-pound vehicle for the shoot,” he said. At publication time Mercedes-Benz hadn’t decided what to do with the dunked GL450.

The shoot took place on Sept. 20 at a tank used for filming movies, television shows and commercials. The “Quiet” photos were on display at an exhibition at The Esquire House 360 in Los Angeles on Oct. 19.

Muller’s work can be seen on the pages of Glamour, Rolling Stone and Time Magazine; on movie billboards for X-Men 3: The Last Stand; on the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Stadium Arcadium album cover; as well as in ad campaigns for Fila, Nike and Cingular, among others.

© 2013 Forbes.com

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