I learnt to swim recently, pretty late in life, I guess. The first thing I had to do was get comfortable in the water, believe me it's still a struggle sometimes, I can get all tense if things aren't quite so...But the one image that kept me going, that was the motivation to learn to swim, was this image of leaping in and cuting my way face first through this blue thing. Oh, I know it sounds stupid and very 'filmy', but God, that image has a sense of abandon and freedom I am not equal to, I love it.
Water has, as I see it, power to transform, to change beyond recognition. Through it's brute force, partly through its indifference all things are equally brutalised or loved depending on how you see it.
So you can imagine that when I saw the presentation 'The seventh wave" at Magnum I was kind of sucked in and blown away. The photographer Trent Parke it says is their only Aussie photographer, he's also a sports photographer and a much decorated one at that.
His images seem to sometimes say that we're not creatures that belong in water. We remain at the threshold, afraid and fascinated. When we're in this environment, we're aliens. We are afraid of it and yet conquer it, there is triumph in our mastering it and ourselves. Some of our alienation has to do with a loss of innocence (you know water and the womb and so on). The water separates the child and mom. It does not distort the innocent but brutalises her. Hence, eventually us and water isn't about mastery but about return; a return to safety, to silence, to acceptance.
Water isolates us, deprives us of many of our senses, sound, smell, vision. Yet it encloses us in a way that is sensible. Unlike the way that wind makes us aware of air, we are always aware of water, whether mobile or not. This can induce both comfort and panic, its eventually not about the indifferent water, it is about us. It is about temperament.
I enjoy solitude; a long swim is one of my favourite ways of isolating myself. Swimming the middle lane in an empty pool is the closest I've ever come to flying.