Maybe I don’t really get it, and if I said I vastly preferred Deanna Templeton’s What She Said to her sorta conceptual The Swimming Pool, would you hold it against me?

Given that the photographs show nude figures swimming underwater, the book is blurringly NSFW, so you’ll have to click through to view the unboxing. Viewers beware.

Now I have nothing against backyard swimming pools or photographing in or around them, or even of swimming nude, and some of the pictures are really beautiful, but the series really doesn’t go anywhere for me.

The series contains black & white, color, and instant color images, and so shows Templeton’s facility with a variety of media. Universally pale-colored skin glows under the water, and on the occasions where figures exhaled or otherwise produced bubbles make for really fun and pretty pictures. And the many women and couple of men are universally fairly fit and slim and conventionally attractive, so the book might hold some prurient interest for some (ymmv), though I’m too old and jaded and have seen too much unmentionable sorts of imagery to really be moved by these.*

There’s probably something to the sequencing, beyond simple pacing, and I’m too ignorant and blind to see or divine it, and the mix of media and all is sorta distracting as a result. In my fourth or fifth trip through, I may have started to detect a sort of chapter heading form for the handful of 4-shot grids, and if I did, no narrative or reason for the division emerged.

Additionally, repeated viewings brought out the funhouse aspect of viewing bodies underwater. Limbs and torsos distort and twist, with calves or forearms on one side appearing grotesquely large, while the opposite limb shrinks to spider-like proportions. This is a sort of interesting effect, and with the bubbles looking so lush, for one moment I saw very clearly the static, millisecond slice of time nature, the pure materiality and two-dimensionality of photography. I quickly lost it, but for that split second, I really saw what Stephen Shore and others have always claimed about photography in ways that I never understood before.

I hope to find that again, and I guess I have to credit Templeton and The Swimming Pool for that insight.


Overall, I don’t recommend the book and with apologies to both Deanna Templeton and her husband (and book editor/designer Ed Templeton), rate it a mediocre 3.3 stars.

Second Edition copies of The Swimming Pool remain available direct from publisher Um Yeah Arts and elsewhere. And, really, do check out Templeton’s excellent What She Said. There’s greatness there, and I look forward to Templeton’s next project and hope she continues to pursue new and unusual subject matter. If this one is a miss for me, I’m sure it works for someone (maybe you!) and I’m also sure that Templeton has more great work in her.

*Attentive and long term readers might have gleaned an idea of my predilections in this area over the years and many hundreds of photobook reviews…. I doubt there are many of you out there, though, so I suspect I’m safe, and may Allah forgive me for abusing His gift of vision (and imagination).

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