In a Liquid State
I have photographed a women's swimming group on Staten Island since 1984. They meet on Wednesday nights and swim in a dimly lit, extremely humid YMCA pool. The oldest members have been swimming together for more than 40 years, and every fall new acolytes arrive, some as young as 6 years old.
Photographing these swimmers has enabled me to be in a relaxed setting in which female bodies move in and out of water, each carrying her own lightness or weight of years. This is a society of girls and women who have created a gliding, floating world for themselves, apart from societal constraints.
Being a part of this landscape has been a gift. I have been a witness to a world of extraordinary beauty that few people notice. Photographing women in bathing suits is a loaded issue in our culture. Young women are rarely photographed on their own terms, and aging women are largely unseen. Sometimes I think that maybe we aren't looking at life well enough.
When I first began this project, I may have been as interested in the quirky, cultural aspects of the swimming group as in each swimmer's physical form. But as we all became more comfortable with each other and with the camera, I began to make portraits of individual swimmers. The water itself became a subject, as the girls and women moved from solid to liquid states.
The photographs and text are by Christine Osinski, a professor of art at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. The photographs are from the exhibition "Pool Studies," at the Westover School's Schumacher Gallery, in Middlebury, Conn., through December 1.