In 2009, I started an unusual sort of travel diary: I began taking images of swimming pools in every place I visited.
Now I have a collection of pools in Iraq, Liberia, Bangladesh, Kenya, Colombia, Uganda, Burkina Faso, India, Jordania, Albania, Malawi, Benin, Lebanon, Portugal, Austria, Mozambique, Italy, Afghanistan and more. Over the next 40 years, this series will continue to grow,
Published on: New York Times LENS (US), New York Times Page Two (US), The Guardian (UK), Le Monde (FR), Volkskrant Magazine (NL), Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH), Courrier International (FR), Slate Magazine (US), It isn't happiness (US), Fast CO Design (CAN), It's nice that (UK), La Repubblica (IT).
3th Prize Zilveren Camera.
THE STORY BEHIND THE SWIMMING POOLS
My assignments for all kind of different clients have taken me all over the world. In 2009, I started an unusual sort of travel diary, when I began taking images of swimming pools in the places I visited. I found out that in every place I go, there is an unexpected swimming pool.
Even though the assignments mean I am rushing most of the time, being around a swimming pool always gives me a good feeling, a feeling of rest. So in every country I like to ask my driver or translator where I can find the most interesting, funny or crazy pool in the neighbourhood. They always look surprised because they think I want to swim or something. Then I explain that I'm doing a project about swimming pools around the world. They start smiling and try to help me with a good spot.
The pools may look different from one another, but they are similar in that they all tell stories. Sometimes the pools can be symbolic of a country’s history or character. But I also recognise my own hand in shaping that narrative. Each location has so many layers. For example, in Colombia, I chose to photograph an old pool from a coffee farmer, but 500 meters away he built a new one. That's the power of photography. You can show whatever you want.
The pools I visit have various personal meanings. In Baghdad, the calm and fun of the swimming pool presented a great contrast to the dangerous area surrounding it. In a city where you always feel the threat, this felt like a safe area.
Watching construction workers on a small ledge near a pool in Bangladesh, meanwhile, drew my attention to the great differences in human experiences. These construction workers were there on their bare feet working on the 10th floor of a building in the hot sun. One mistake and they’d fall 10 floors down.
I found pools where the hoped-for tourists never came. And in Liberia I stumbled upon one of President Tolbert’s desolated pools. Thirty years ago, his assassination was the beginning of the first Liberian war. Fifty kilometers away I found the swimming pool of the brother of Charles Taylor, where the tables are now turned upside-down.
There are also pools where I don't feel a 'click'. In Cambodia, I walked around two pools but nothing special happened. There can be a big difference between 'nothing is happening' and 'nothing is happening'. It's difficult to explain what kind of feeling that is and what it is I'm looking for.
In winterly Chicago I found a pool on the roof of a Best Western Hotel. It was full of snow and beautiful but the door to the terrace was locked. So I asked the receptionist for the key. He thought I was crazy, and came with the pretext that the key was missing. I couldn't convince him and left Chicago without a photo of the pool.
For the most part I don't swim in the pools. In some pools women are not allowed to swim. To be honest, I'm not a good swimmer... I like photography much more than swimming.
Over the next thirty years, this series will continue to grow.
The world map
Green = Places where I found a ‘click’ with a pool. Red = Places where there was no ‘click’ with a pool. No color = Places to go in the next 30 years.