I/Eye: On Photography

Water works

Posted in Uncategorized by Sheila Newbery on December 4, 2010

I never thought the swimming pool pictures were at all about mere hedonist pleasure. They were about the surface of the water, the very thin film, the shimmering two-dimensionality.

(from L. Wechsler, “A Visit with David and Stanley Hollywood Hills 1987”, David Hockney, A Retrospective, exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art, p. 81).

My friend G—– was doing laps in the pool behind her apartment building one day and I asked her if I could take pictures while she swam. As long as I don’t have to appear in any of them, was her reply. Initially I was disappointed by this constraint, but the water itself proved to be an absorbing subject. And it turned out that even though I couldn’t include her in any of the pictures, having a swimmer in the pool was essential: her motion animated the surface. Depending on how far from her I set up my camera, or how I used the curvature of the bottom of the pool, or at what depth I focused, I could discover and isolate complex, fleeting patterns playing across the surface and bottom. The pool water was an elastic, chaotic lens bending and projecting sunlight with infinite variation, and chasing the patterns was engrossing sport. It was only a pity that I couldn’t swim and make the pictures at the same time…

Untitled water study, (Palo Alto, 2010) © Sheila Newbery

Untitled water study, (Palo Alto, 2010) © Sheila Newbery

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