Young swimmers playing in the cool blue water pools of the brief summer season. The days are bright and long, but these sunlit months are fleeting, like childhood itself. I watch them, aware, observant, spurt of water, successful or failed spins, dives or other prowesses frozen by the shutter, a moment captured and the frame in which they will remain trapped forever.
The water droplets merge with the rough edges of the rock and cement; somersaults are isolated instances in time, in water, like submarine sculptures. We perceive the movement and shape of the distorted bodies, some floating, some struggling, some appearing to drown, some triumphant, some breaking the water's surface like a Phoenix rising. Reality and poetry, lights and colors blend in a water ballet.
"Waterlilies" is primarily a caress, a drop of love from a mother to her children.
Before I knew what “nymphéas” meant in French, I looked at Sandrine Hermand-Grisel’s photographs of children in the translucent blue and green waters of swimming pools and thought, “These remind me of Monet’s water lilies.” That simple really and the connection that instantaneous. The figures in the water are obscured by movement as if by brush strokes, the warmth of the red and yellow swim suits contrasting with the cool green water, the children sometimes completely submerged, other times breaking the surface. The feelings these movements conjure up are different in each frame. Sometimes the figure boldly breaks the surface of the water, seeming to surge up powerfully. Other times, there is just the slightest gesture, a hand or a foot emerging from the water, so gentle. Or the moment when the figure disappears beneath a ripple or a splash, the water sometimes barely disturbed, other times a boisterous splash. There is a mysterious choreography that is witnessed when the photographs are viewed together.
The power of these images lies in their ability to bring us back to our own childhood, to the joy and innocence of play, and also the excitement of the pool. Growing up in the north, my summers were brief and cherished. The days at the pool were limited in the short summer season where maybe there would only be a month where the heat and humidity would allow us hours in the cold pools. Looking at Hermand-Grisel’s photographs make me long for the simpler times, when the days didn’t seem to pass so quickly, and the sheer pleasure of being weightless in water was enough.
There’s also the color in her pictures and how she has treated them. These images of childhood are timeless because of her muted color palette. This could be my summers forty years ago or my mother’s summers seventy years ago, but no, they are occurring now. I let the nostalgia wash over me and allow the blue green shimmering waves to stop me. I sit by the pool in my mind’s eye and marvel at how a photographer could take pictures of something so familiar and push me back into my past while simply capturing the joy of the present with her children. Fleeting. This time is fleeting and Hermand-Grisel knows it, as her children grow up and the innocent splashing is set aside for more urgent matters. The underwater ballet of play and the great happiness of youth are immortalized in her pictures. I watch and I slow down and I appreciate something as simple as a water lily and a brilliant summer day.
Ann Jastrab, Gallery Director Rayko Photo Center