Swimming with the camera; The Aquatic Street by Deb Achak

Deb Achak’s ​Aquatic Street series documents life by the ocean as a silent observer. She swims within crowds of people, looking below the surface, both literally and figuratively.

Deb Achak’s ​Aquatic Street series documents life by the ocean as a silent observer. She swims within crowds of people, looking below the surface, both literally and figuratively.

Traveling the world and swimming with her camera allows Achak to photograph beach culture from the unique vantage point of the water, a method she refers to as aquatic street photography. She looks for locations where people seek pleasure in the water, capturing the full range of human experience, from joy to weightless suspension to peaceful contemplation.

The “street” in “aquatic street photography”, often takes the form of rocks jutting out of the water, the sandy or pebbly coastline, and the water itself, which becomes a thoroughfare for families, packs of children, elderly couples, and endless others captured in weightless suspension or swept up into a wave.

Achak stumbled on the work rather serendipitously. Originally intending to photograph her children in the water, she moved on to other subjects when they became tired of posing for her. She turned her lens on the water itself in her ​Ebb and Flow series (2016), and later captured a photo she titled ​The Queue while swimming at Black Rock in Maui. ​The Queue depicts a line of swimmers treading water, waiting to climb the jagged rocks that rise from the surface. The perspective felt fresh and exciting to her. Later that year, she resumed the practice while traveling along the Amalfi Coast in Italy. The work has since taken her to Croatia, Mexico, Iceland, Hawaii, California, Florida, and numerous locations throughout Italy. She photographs in oceans, lakes, rivers, swimming pools, lagoons — anywhere people gather in the water.

The concept of seeing below the surface is a key element of the ​Aquatic Street.​ For Achak, it’s about getting in touch with what’s hidden or not readily visible. It also celebrates the fundamental beauty of people, regardless of culture, age, or body size. There is a hidden world under the surface of the water but also within each of us that is mysterious and rare. Achak is curious about the way ordinary bodies suspended in water — both poetic and painterly — reveal something about our true nature. We are all exceptional in our own way, but who are we without the artifice of belongings and careers, stripped down to our swimsuits and bare skin, floating weightless and in our joy? The water brings that forth like no other environment.

About Deb Achak

Deb Achak is a contemporary fine art photographer based in Seattle, WA. ​Her work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States and abroad, including Women Street Photographers Anual Group Exhibitions, New York, NY (2018, 2019, 2020); Winston Wächter Fine Art in Seattle; Foto Festival in Bielsko-Biala, Poland; Sofia Photo Festival in Sofia, Bulgaria; Photoplace Gallery in Middlebury, VT; and the Vermont Center for Photography in Brattleboro, VT. In addition, her work is in the recent publication of Women Street Photographers book by Prestel Publishers, and held in the permanent collection of the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops in Santa Fe, NM. She is the recipient of numerous accolades for photography, and her work is represented by Winston Wächter Fine Art New York and Seattle. [Official Website]

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