Many of us are familiar with the feeling of slowing down underwater, but we rarely have the opportunity to see what that looks like. Canada-based artist Barbara Cole, however, specializes in the practice of capturing people as well as objects when they are submerged in crystal-clear pools. Her latest series, entitled BEAT, uses water as a way to celebrate the movement of the human figure in several striking portraits.
Each photograph features a solitary man or woman dressed in white clothing and frozen in a state of action. The water imbues their limbs with a sense of weightlessness, which in turn makes their movements appear effortless and ethereal. While the water is mostly invisible to us as the viewers, it still filters the image with a sense of distortion. As a result, these subjects “independently investigate what it means to move in what is both an insulated and changeable space.”
BEAT is Cole's first underwater photography series on the human figure since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Like her other projects, she celebrates the inherent beauty of the body and the way it moves by suspending it in water. These figures, freed by the constraints of gravity, weightlessly stretch into positions that are reminiscent of ballet and dance. “BEAT is a manifestation of the body celebrating itself as it moves back freely into the world,” Cole's artist statement explains.