As the summer begins, I feel the urge to plan drives to unknown locations. Through entire spring as it gets little warmer, I start with different outdoor rituals.
I prepare my pots for herbs and plants to grow the kitchen and backyard. I grind a fresh batch of coffee beans to get my pour-over cup ready while listening to the birds outside the window. Breathing cold air while I walk the chilly mornings in the East Coast is my favorite way to get the day started. As I walk the riverfront, I observe how animals, insects, birds swim and navigate the waters. All of them have different body structures and how they use their bodies to move through water. This daily common magic makes me ponder how interesting life is around us. If we lose our preconceived notions and take the time to observe the cosmos and its elements, we can discover many interesting things.
All of us know how to think, know something or believe. However not many of us know how to feel. This project is a pursuit to learn how to feel by exploring water as my chosen medium. A river of dreams unfolds as I take trails to explore my next swim expedition whether in mountains or coastal areas.
Chasing the unknown and not knowing what you’re looking for, puts you in an uncomfortable spot. There is an element of temporary fear which can unwrap ethereal experiences for you. Water has pure strength. It has music to the way it sounds; it has healing capacity as it hits your body, it has gleaming light which can reflect through the sun or moon. Its strength is something which always makes you surrender and there will always be an element of fear. Often, I encounter unexpected rainy days, only to find the best sunsets after the clouds pass by.
I still find water bodies to swim and immerse myself. As I swim in the water, my mind and emotions became the boat navigating the serenity of the moment. Sometimes a petty act of dipping my feet in water gives me a sensory feeling.
This journey of constant chasing guides me through emotional self-enquiry and my existence. Untangling your own moods can happen through the process of making visuals and realizing your existence in the environment. As a perpetual learner I try to investigate various bodies of water by touching its components, feeling their vibrations, and hearing their sounds. I embrace this process as it clears my thoughts and strengthens my inner calm and consciousness.
These frames are curated based on my visual experiences from the time spent outside. Sometimes I detach and imagine how the water sees me and lets me be a part of it. This opens a whole new school of thoughts within to chase another day of exploratory experience. I photograph my experiences with different set of cameras. Lot of these images are made with a powerful underwater pocket camera which keeps my photographic experience fun and gives me a new point of view. Some of the visuals are made purely based on feeling and without seeing into the camera. I embrace what I am able to bring back home as it exposes me to the unusual.
First chapter of this work known as ‘Diving into the unknown’ is a series of photographs based on how I overcame my childhood trauma of being thrown into a pool by my swimming coach in India. After 8 years of fear, I took a leap of faith and taught myself how to swim.I would swim next the rope in the deepest part of the pool. My fear was not of the water but because I couldn’t see anything underwater. Most of our fears stem from closing our eyes as we are unable to see the unknown. Getting a pair of googles helped me see underwater, and breathe comfortably underwater. This turned my fear into a meditative experience as I started swimming twice a day of longer hours and distances in the pool.
As I moved to New York, I began to explore pools for swimming. I realized there was a photography restriction and people would not be as comfortable being photographed. This restriction pushed me to explore outdoor water bodies and also turn the lens onto my own self and other water elements. I found a pool in friends building and started swimming initially. Later I ventured out to fresh water lakes but I did not have first hand experience of swimming in colder water bodies. The waters on East Coast can be cold during fall and spring. Though lake weed, little fishes and other life pushed me to swim outdoors more often. I slowly started immersing my body starting from feet and gradually walking inside for the body temperature to adjust. I was able to swim slowly in colder lakes with about zero-degree temperatures at least for a couple minutes. This changed me mentally forever and pushed me to do more challenging tasks. I also swam in cold sea waters occasionally to explore winter surfers and photograph them in Rockways Beach, New York.
I would often visit the same lakes in winter which were completely frozen while people skate and do ice fishing. It was fascinating for me to explore the contrast of perspective on same water body 6months apart as seasons change. I started exploring fishing holes and make photographs around it. Swimming photography has become a longer-term project for me to document my experiences as I evolve. I have got this work exhibited in ICP 2019 as a part of final show and SFA Art Projects NYC 2020. I have been living and working a s freelance photographer in New Jersey, US since 2016. I explore local swimming, paddling and surfing spots in and around NY/NJ area. Recently I have ventured out by photographing other activities like surfing, canoeing and fishing. [Official Website]