Think of summer and you’ll immediately conjure up images of sun-drenched days lounging by the pool, either on some Mediterranean island or at one of London’s many outdoor swimming pools and lidos. But while the coronavirus pandemic may have scuppered many of our holiday plans this year, there’s still one way you can fully immerse yourself in the beauty and glamour of poolside living – with writer, curator and avid swimmer Lou Stoppard’s spellbinding new photography book, Pools.
Capturing all the hedonistic fun that a dip beneath these turquoise waters can offer, the book is the ultimate summer escapism title, featuring Stoppard’s carefully chosen edit of the most inspiring and evocative contemporary swimming pool photography from recent years, including shots by leading fashion photographers Glen Luchford, Sølve Sundsbø, Mert & Marcus and Nick Knight, as well as renowned artists like Martin Parr, Alice Hawkins, Martine Franck and Alex Webb.
The starting point for the project was a personal one. Stoppard has long been a devoted swimmer, hurling herself into the water whenever she needs somewhere to think or simply find some peace and quiet – her favourite London spots include the Parliament Hill Lido, with its shimmering stainless-steel bottom, and the Kenwood Ladies’ Pond on Hampstead Heath, where you’ll often find her floating among the reeds.
Having published her first book, Fashion Together, featuring some of fashion’s most extraordinary duos discussing the art of collaboration, with Rizzoli in 2017, Stoppard decided she wanted to pay homage to author and photographer Kelly Klein’s own ode to the swimming pool, which had been released by the same publisher in 1992. Once she started collating images the project came together quickly, and the result is this captivating coffee table book.
Organised by theme, the photographs range from decadent scenes depicting the glamour of the poolside party to the simple, meditative pleasure of being in the water and the importance of the pool as an image in fashion photography and architecture. Spread across eleven chapters, Stoppard covers a wide range of topics, moving from meditation and sex to an entire section dedicated to coming of age, which explores the intricate relationship young people have with swimming pools and the sense of freedom they evoke; Stoppard herself first found her love of swimming in her teens.
The book concludes with her personal guide to the finest swimming pools around the world, from the Art Deco Piscine Pontoise in Paris to the futuristic floating Aqua Dome spa resort in the Austrian Alps and the pool room at the White House, which features an intricate mural depicting Christiansted Harbor on Saint Croix in the Virgin Islands.
Alongside the arresting images you’ll also find a poetic foreword by writer, artist and fellow swimming obsessive Leanne Shapton, as well as thought-provoking essays by the historian Susie Parr and art curator Robin Muir, discussing how pools have evolved in the cultural consciousness. Each chapter starts with a quote from a great swimming scene in literature, which perfectly echoes the mood of the images that follow. The book’s theme is further reflected in its clever design, which features a water-resistant blue acetate cover that just so happens to smell like a swimming pool inflatable, further transporting you as you flick through the pages.
Pools is billed as “a celebratory ode to the joy and enduring allure of the swimming pool” and acts as the perfect accompaniment to “poolside daydreaming”. Indeed, much of the book focuses on the transformative power of water and its ability wash away the difficulties of the day – something we could all certainly do with right now.
Pools: Lounging, Diving, Floating, Dreaming: Picturing Life at the Pool, edited by Lou Stoppard, is out now (Rizzoli, £50)