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Pools, From Above – The New York Times

by Mary Sewell

A pool can be soothing long before you wade into its waters. Even viewed from a distance, pools can evoke a sense of stillness, a sense of calm. But often, the most visually harmonious elements of collections remain hidden to us — until we look at them from a new perspective.

In 2018, after purchasing my first drone, I began shooting a set of images that would later become this series, “Pools From Above.” It’s the culmination of my long journey to discover the beauty in commonplace landscapes seen from unexpected vantage. After shooting my first drone photos on a trip through Southeast Asia and Australia, I began experimenting more explicitly with new techniques: my use of negative space, compositional balance, leading lines, symmetry.

The outward balance and simplicity of these images often mask the difficulties I experienced while making them. The painting titled “Time Warp,” taken in 2019 at a resort in Byron Bay, a coastal town in New South Wales is a good example: It took me more than 50 attempts to achieve the perfect composition.

As much as I’m drawn to their visual features, pools, I’ve come to learn, also have distinct personalities.

Consider, for example, the image titled “Nostalgia,” taken in Bali. It features a cooler color temperature, hints of tropical flora, and people lounging by the pool. The scene evokes a strong sense of tranquillity. If “Nostalgia” existed as audio, it might express itself as the calming sound of rain pattering on a tin roof.

Conversely, the image titled “Symmetry” was taken at a private location in Sydney and offers a prickly, traditional personality with its strict edges, imperfect surface bricks, and deeper blue hues. I like to think of this one as personifying a grandparent who tells it like it is.

While often appreciated merely as architectural objects, pools retain an innate ability to trigger involuntary memory. For me, they can evoke the smell of my favorite food or resurrect memories of my favorite holidays.

Partly, too, the series is an ode to pools’ less appreciated visual elements: their curves, their sharp edges, their diverse blue hues, the way elongated shadows play against their surfaces. As is true with all photography, lighting — or, instead, the management of shades — is one of the most crucial elements to the series. The time of day I shoot depends on the pool itself. If a collection has perfectly placed furniture around the rim, I shoot earlier or later in the day to extrapolate long shadows. If, instead, I want to avoid shadows and focus on the shape of the pool itself, I shoot toward the middle of the day.

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