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Beyond the Speedo: The Secret Lives of Public Pool Swimmers

Artist Judith Starkman takes us inside the "secret lives" of the swimming addicts who religiously flock to a pool in Los Angeles.

The public pool is a sacred space for many. In this "great equalizer" of the modern city, you can cast aside workday anxieties for the calming, repetitive act of swimming laps. Plus, you can get almost naked in public.

That's the takeaway of a new public art project, "The Secret Life of Swimmers," by Judy Starkman, a Los Angeles-based director and photographer. A lifelong swimmer, Starkman is a habitué of the Culver City Plunge pool, where she noticed the daily metamorphosis that her fellow swimmers underwent upon arriving at the pool. Starkman decided to photograph the individuals that compose her pool community, once in their swimwear and then again dressed for their "secret lives" at work, synagogue, or family time. Her subjects include everyone from a fireman to an academic to an antique flute restorer. “They are young and old. Some are in fantastic shape, but most are just regular people," according to Starkman.

Culver City will display banner-sized prints of Starkman's photos along several major streets for the next two years. Click through the slideshow above to check out a selection. Or visit the project's website to see the online gallery and a video by Starkman about the project.

Photographs by Judy Starkman. The streetlight pole banner and virtual gallery portion of "The Secret Life of Swimmers" concept was made possible with the support of the Culver City Cultural Affairs Commission, the Culver City Parks, Recreation & Community Services Commission, and the Culver City City Council.

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