On the darkest nights during new moons, I created Night Swimming, breathe photograms. While holding my breath underwater, I exhaled rings of air. Sensing my breath channel upward through the water, I used a flash to make exposures of the bubbles onto light-sensitive paper floating right below the water’s surface. The shape of the bubbles made visible not only my lung capacity but also the essence of life: Breath. As a kid growing up with asthma, I learned to swim to strengthen my respiratory system. I was instructed to submerge and hold my breath for a few seconds before coming up for air. I did this repeatedly with different but consistent rhythms.
I wondered how to make a photograph that translated my physical experience with water. I wanted to make work that captures the inexplicable, but complex sensation of being in the water. Looking at paintings of a pool or a photograph of a coastline is nothing like diving into water. Is it possible to create a photograph that embodies this experience of physical immersion?
What does it mean to look at photographs of breath?
The bubble in the photogram has correlation to the depth of the water and the distance from the bubble ring to the photographic paper. The deeper I blow, the bigger the bubble appears. The shape of the bubble also has a direct association to my lung capacity. The work highlights the experiential elements of my process. As I was soaked in the water along with the paper, my senses amplified. I can’t see, but I can feel it. I rely on the vibration of the water. It gives me a sense of orientation and gravity.