Poolscapes

by Marianina Patsa

The sublime waters of Karine Laval.

It all started in the summer of 2002 in Barcelona, when the photographer Karine Laval, while on vacation and enjoying the sun in a public swimming pool, began to observe the world through her lens. In her eyes, the repetitive movements of the swimmers became the movements of dancers. And the swimming pool became a scene. As he observed them, the self-expression of the bathers began to reveal them to whole hidden worlds. Whom he decided to take them a photo.

For Laval, life by the pool is a fantastic getaway, full of memories and action, serenity, and excitement. At Poolscapes (Steidl Editions), we enter a world where the sun never sets. The book brings together two projects: The Pool (2002–05) and Poolscapes (2009–12), created in public swimming pools in urban and natural environments in Europe, as well as private swimming pools in the USA.

The book follows a chronological evolution in the tone and depth of the images, starting from the photographic element and reaching to the point where the boundaries between photography and painting, reality and dream, blur. Gradually, the geometric lines and familiar architectural structures recede, leaving room for the abstract, often blurry shapes and colors of the images, which range between representation and abstraction.

In Laval’s images, swimming pools do not imply a one-dimensional sociological reading, as they can be fields of entertainment and joy, but they can also become arenas of drama, stress, and tragedy. The “deformed” and “fragmented” bathers are the “dark waters” that metaphorically reveal the unconscious and less sunny aspects of the pool.

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