underwater portraits at 4 degrees

18th July 2016

While photographing the pool world championships in Finland, i noticed a funny little pool next to the 50 meter main pool. It was tiny, barely bigger than a bathtub, just a set of stairs leading into a black tiled square. I figured it was a hot tub of some sorts, but when i put my finger in to test how warm the water was, i got stung -it was freezing! Well, not really freezing, obviously, as it was still liquid, but it was very very cold. A sign next to the pool said it was 4 degrees Celsius, which is 39 degrees Fahrenheit, aka f***ing freezing.

Of course i had to try it, so i put in a foot and instantly regretted it. It hurt! But i have a friend in Finland who swim under ice -in her bathing suit- and i was wearing a wetsuit, plus this water was warmer, so i had to go on. I walked in, dipped my head under, froze my sinuses solid and tried to get out in a dignified but hurried fashion. No such luck, by that time my feet had started to cramp and i could barely walk.

After i got out i stood there for a while, trying not to cry and wondering why people would do such a thing, when the most wonderful tingle came over my feet as they started to feel again. Soon the rest of my body followed, feeling all alive and giddy. It was then that i realized this pool was a wonderful opportunity to do a series of portraits of people submerged in 4 degree water. I immediately got back in there to make sure that it really was that shockingly cold, as shock was the expression i wanted to capture, and yes, yes it was, so i hurried out again, limping on feet clinched.

In order to maximize the shock, i asked my fellow freedivers to jump in from the side of the pool, also adding bubbles to the action. It is not often that i have a fairly defined idea of what i’d like to achieve, but with this series, the results were pretty much it:

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That’s Marianna, perfectly displaying what we feel down there

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and Julian, with a perfect expression and a crown of bubbles

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or Oksana, whose lovely smile almost froze over

4 degree pool portrait

4 degree pool portrait

Laurent nearly froze his tattoos off

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but Justine managed an OK sign -quite a few did, actually

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in fact, some people were downright and ice-cold rock’n’roll

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that last one is Johanna, my friend who swims under ice. She posed several times for me, and never did i get the shock i was hoping for. She was one of the ones who was actually quite serene

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just like these

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Johanna even blew a bubble ring, so we had to try that as well -with varying degrees of success

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That last one is me. As you’ll notice, i was cheating, wearing a wetsuit plus vest. Because i am a massive pussy, that’s why. But on the last day i did man up, a little, if only because this one wouldn’t do it unless i did, which i thought was only fair and extremely unfair at the same time. I have yet to forgive her:

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In the end, the best bubbles were a tie between Chris and Dasha

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Best pose definitely goes to Dasha, though

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