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Swim Team contains photographs of the Lady Grizzlies swim team from their competitive swim season in fall 2009 and their water polo season in spring 2010. I started Swim Team in early 2009, when I sent e-mails to the coachs of every swim team in the Chicagoland area requesting permission to do a photographic documentary project on their team.
One team consented; generously inviting me to photograph them, the Lady Grizzlies Swim Team. The Grizzlies are an all-girl team, made up of students from the Chicago high schools Walter Payton Prep and Jones Prep.
I started photographing team practices at the beginning of the competitive swimming season in early fall 2009. The first weeks were difficult but exciting, as I tried to figure out how to use my camera underwater. I had previousley acquired an underwater container for my camera that was extremely awkward to use without drowning or getting in the team's way. After many attempts I became competent enough to juggle the camera while swimming and holding my breath in hopeful anticipation.
As the team’s season and my project progressed, I found myself looking for images to compliment the serene underwater images of the Lady Grizzlies I had been taking in the water. My focus shifted to what the team was doing above and outside the water. I tried to look for moments that highlighted how the girls interacted with each other as members of a team and behaved as individuals in a team context.
The competitive swimming season ended near the end of 2009, and so the team transitioned into their water polo season at the beginning of 2010. The Grizzlies water polo team was a condensed version of the Grizzlies swim team, with less than half the roster and without a pool to practice in. The girls were forced to compensate with “dry land” practices, in which they lift weights and jog to stay fit between games. These images blend nearly seamlessly together with those in the pool, as the team dynamics, girl’s personalities, and shooting style remain consistent.
At the end of the water polo season in May 2010, I found myself with a body of images that didn’t work as a linear story nor worked as a straight explanation of the sport. The photos I selected for this book where the ones I thought best reflected on the experience of being an athlete/swimmer, being a young woman and the social dynamics of a group.


About the Author

Lenny Gilmore
lennygilmore Chicago, Illinois, United States

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