Behind the shot: The “swimmer” series

by Alison Shaw

I’VE BEEN WORKING ON A NEW SERIES of photos of “Swimmers” at our local indoor pool. Truthfully, it started out as something I could do to pass the time while my daughter Sarah swam with the swim team each week, while I, otherwise known as “Mom’s taxi service,” waited until it was time to transport her back home.
It wasn’t long before the snapshots I thought of as entertainment turned into work I really cared about, as I filled up at least one memory card each Thursday afternoon, and headed back to my studio to download the images and tweak them a little in Lightroom.
I’ve been playing a lot with motion photos over the past few years, most recently starting to use my camera like a paintbrush, and “sketching” or “painting” with my camera. In the case of Sarah and her teammates on the swim team, I panned them with the camera as they swam past me, using a slow shutter speed to intentionally try to pick up the sense of motion, while simultaneously abstracting the images to a certain degree. I’m always trying to capture the “essence,” rather than the literal fact of whatever I might be photographing – this was true in the case of the swimmers.
There’s no doubt that Sarah (who, by the way, is an excellent swimmer) had to put up with a lot of silliness and demands from her mom, but after all these years I think she’s used to that. These include but were not limited to:

  • making her arrive at the pool a half hour early so that my lens had adequate time to de-fog.
  • making her squeeze into a hot pink bathing suit that was two sizes too small for her.
  • making her borrow a swim cap from her instructor, since her own cap was covered with distracting logos.
  • signing her up for a second session of swim team – this time it can be a “business expense.” And by the way, the same is true of the brightly-colored swim caps and kickboards I’m ordering on-line …

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