Satirical and Surreal Swimming Lessons

Haley Grace223 Headshot
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All photos courtesy Muriel Bordier

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Muriel Bordier, a French photographer and videographer, used 10 large formats to illustrate humor in her Les Thermes (the spas) collection, which received the EURAZEO Prize in 2015.

Besides a few accessories, the photographs are entirely made up of the architecture and characters alone. Water is barely present, but it is always suggested through the actions, clothing and surroundings of the characters. The digital photos almost look like paintings, emphasizing their satirical feel.

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"In my photographs, I try to cast an amused and satirical eye on the world," says Bordier, in a statement to DesignBoom. "I chose objects, monuments, landscapes and people that are a part of our collective memory and our society's cultural codes. Then I juxtapose, stage and photograph these elements, playing on the differences the images generate and the spectator's representation."

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However, the theme of swimming lessons, paired with humans who are miniature in size, highlight something deeper and darker than just satire. The photos emphasize a person's vulnerability to the large, looming world around them.

This deeper meaning is revealed by how the swimmers are led to an indoor pool while strapped into a chair lift, how they line up to jump off a single diving board and how a worker fills an enormous, empty pool alone.

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"I have no master plan," says Bordier. "I don't tell the spectator what to think; I simply provide an elaborate composition that allows the eye to travel, create its own hierarchy of aspects and awaken perception. I'm not inventing anything, I'm just forcing the line."

Ultimately, Bordier created this collection to invite viewers to appreciate her surreal and hilarious reading of the contemporary world in which we all live. 

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This article first appeared in the April 2023 issue of AQUA Magazine — the top resource for retailers, builders and service pros in the pool and spa industry. Subscriptions to the print magazine are free to all industry professionals. Click here to subscribe.

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