Larry Sultan



‘I wanted to do something so absolutely different, and physical, and in a certain way, kind of ill-conceived… I took my camera and went underwater in a bunch of pools. And made pictures.’

Between 1978 and 1982, in a departure from the collaborative conceptual work that he had become known for, Larry Sultan photographed people learning to swim in public pools in San Francisco. Initially inspired by black-and-white documentary photograhs he found in a Red Cross swimming manual, Sultan soon began exploring an urge to create pictures that were physical, sensual, immersive, and painterly. The resulting work is saturated with colour and inflected by the unpredictable forms and chance abstractions which emerge through the distorted refractions of the water as a second lens. Often beautiful and regularly unsettling in their ambiguity, the series builds to create a feeling of sensory immersion alive with the fluid and uncertain atmospheres to which Sultan was drawn.

This collection presents all the pictures from the series Sultan himself chose and exhibited, and expands to include additional images he marked on contact sheets as well as further selections from his archive which he likely never even reviewed.

Embossed hardcover
30 x 25.2cm, 144 pages

ISBN 978-1-915743-05-3
April 2023
€60 £50 $65

‘As his subjects moved, the water distorted the images. The resulting photos in Swimmers, taken between 1978 and 1982, are lyrical, dreamlike dances, and also documents of American life.’ The New York Times

‘It feels as though the swimmers in the book were dropped in outer space and are figuring out their new weightless bodies for the first time.’ The Wall Street Journal

‘Sultan’s subjects, photographed in public pools around San Francisco, appear unaware of the camera, blurring the lines between the public and the private.’ The Financial Times

‘Picturesque and impressionistic, full of movement and gesture, Swimmers is Larry Sultan's most instinctive and effortless work. A creatively liberating moment that reveals as much, if not more, about the person behind the lens as it does about who is in front of it.’ The Guardian

‘The photographs in Swimmers are awash with colour and feel painterly rather than practical.’ Creative Review

 ‘Swimmers is flush with meaning and metaphor, a veritable Rorschach test of the imagination.’AnOther

‘There is something dreamlike about these silhouettes caught up in a strange, silent choreography.’ The Eye of Photography 

‘The lesson of Swimmers is insightful: sometimes there is value in not knowing what one is doing.’ American Suburb X

‘What we are actually seeing is an artist relearning how to see.’ Monopol

Featured in Blind Magazine

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