Swimmers – ‘I wanted to do something so absolutely different, and physical, and in a certain way, kind of ill-conceived… I took my camera and went underwater in a bunch of pools. And made pictures.’
Between 1978 and 1982, in a departure from the collaborative conceptual work that he had become known for, Larry Sultan photographed people learning to swim in public pools in San Francisco. Initially inspired by black-and-white documentary photograhs he found in a Red Cross swimming manual, Sultan soon began exploring an urge to create pictures that were physical, sensual, immersive, and painterly. The resulting work is saturated with colour and inflected by the unpredictable forms and chance abstractions which emerge through the distorted refractions of the water as a second lens. Often beautiful and regularly unsettling in their ambiguity, the series builds to create a feeling of sensory immersion alive with the fluid and uncertain atmospheres to which Sultan was drawn.
This collection presents all the pictures from the series Sultan himself chose and exhibited, and expands to include additional images he marked on contact sheets as well as further selections from his archive which he likely never even reviewed.
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