Blue Series / Cyanotypes

Wild Water Collection 2022

In these cyanotypes, we can see a swimmer submerging into cold water, demonstrating the essence of the mindful practice of taking a pause and breathing before fully immersing in the water. The collection of images is called “Blue Waters” and presents a lucid series based around depression and the benefits of cold, wild water swimming.

The after-swim high that many people experience is a real thing. The combination of exercise and cold-water exposure triggers a release of dopamine, the body’s feel-good hormone. Swimming with a buddy or in a group can intensify the experience as swimmers can share and compare their experiences with like-minded people, creating a sense of belonging in that space, within the Lake District.

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The sensory connection of water led me to delve deeper into its different characteristics. Such as the sound it makes and linking this to how it can soothe the mind, something which has been used in meditative practises for millennia. I use the sound of running water in my practice. I wanted to look at the benefits which can be drawn from water to learn how it increases swimmers’ mental resilience not only in the water but out of the water increasing mental resilience in everyday life, the swimmer must switch off anxiety and stress, to concentrate on their breathing.

Proximity to the water especially the sea is associated with many positive measures of physical and mental wellbeing. From higher levels of vitamin D to better social relations, cold water therapy is rich in so many ways. We know that with mere hydration to the body, it can cure itself of many ailments. Swimmers are reported to have increased immunity decreased inflammation increased tolerance to cell stress and boosted self-esteem.

I took full opportunity of exercise during the COVID-19 crisis by walking, hiking and wild swimming taking along my camera. I continually recorded my environment, friends and swimmers, centralising the essence of the mind whilst engaging in these outdoor activities, choosing freedom of nature and fresh air to take a moment and breathe. I observed how people entered the cold water, drawing parallels with the symbolic nature of worship in the physical sense; for example, the stance- arms raised, head lowered, hands clasped, relating to how some view swimming as religion.

Water sustains life. It helps crops grow and provides sustenance for all life forms from bacteria to humans. The true form of water and how we connect with it is something that we should be immensely grateful for, something that should be worshipped. This led me to question why do so many take this vital resource for granted.

Other more deeper questions arose such as why did I feel such pleasure in the water while swimming? I began to collect data on swimmers making an online survey which provided me with others’ experiences of cold-water swimming. My focus was to collect feelings and emotions they felt whilst engaging in the activity. I used video recordings to document personal interviews with swimmers. Their emotions demonstrated strong passions and connections to the water. I also collected water from where I swam.

All this information has helped me to create a fluid connection to water through different art forms.

‘Helen embracing the freeze’, 2022

‘Exiting High’, 2022

‘Ullswater exit high’, 2022

‘Praise’

‘Crawling Out’, 2022

‘Diving In’

‘Diving In’

‘Splash’