deanna templeton captures the perfect pleasure of skinny dipping

Shot over eight years, the film photographs in the artist and zine maker’s new book, ‘The Swimming Pool,’ are an ode to beautiful bodies and Southern California summers.

by Alice Newell-Hanson
20 May 2016, 4:40pm

The previous owner of artists Deanna and Ed Templeton's house in Huntington Beach, California was an elderly lady. As a result, their swimming pool is just the right size for someone a little over five feet tall to accomplish small laps in. "It's shallow, not that long, and shaped like a peanut," says Deanna.

In her new book, The Swimming Pool (due for release through Um Yeah Arts in June), Deanna captures eight summers' worth of visiting skinny dippers — friends, and later, friends of friends — suspended in the pool's turquoise water. (Summers only, because she still hasn't figured out how to turn on the pool's heating system.) Like bugs in amber, the swimmers' bodies are caught in languid momentary poses indefinitely. But far from being static, they seem to drift freely through an endless summer.

The series began eight years ago, when Ed decided to take a dip one day ("he just prefers to swim nude"), and Deanna grabbed her camera from the house. "I got about 10 shots," she says. "One, torso down, looked like a pencil drawing. It didn't look real. A few had really interesting distortions. Not to compare my work to Francis Bacon's but…" She liked how the sun flared off the swimmer's body, and the unexpected ways in which the light refracted through the water. "So I started to ask friends if they'd mind coming over to take a little dip. And I knew I didn't want bathing suits."

Besides Ed, she'd never photographed anyone nude. She was nervous and was worried her subjects would be too. So she offered to close the blinds in the house during the shoot and to turn around until the swimmer was in the water. "I tried to create a secure environment. I gave everyone the option to swim how they wanted," she says. "If they only wanted to do buns up that was fine. But the second everyone got in the water, they felt liberated. I was shooting from above, and when you're underwater you feel like you're in your own world."

As the swimmers swam — her surfer friends somersaulting through multiple laps without coming up for air — Deanna moved along the pool's edge "like a crab," careful to avoid getting shadows from the patio awning or the pool's lip in the frame. "I didn't want any distractions — just this body, this form," she says. "I also stayed away from anything too abstract or chaotic. I chose the shots that were quiet and calm, that really slowed down the pace."

Deanna has spent years photographing near-strangers on California's boardwalks and beyond — from tattooed teens to punk fans. "For how brief the interaction is, shooting like that, I do try to make some kind of connection," she says. But this experience was different. "I feel like I made a lot of new friends through this. The whole project just made me feel close to everyone. These people trusted me and they gave me their time. I felt like it was a collaboration. I wanted them to express themselves."



Text Alice Newell-Hanson
Photography Deanna Templeton

photography interviews
Alice Newell-Hanson
Deanna Templeton
The Swimming Pool