Photographing the link between mental health and cold water swimming

The benefits of cold water swimming on mental health are readily known, and written about, but getting a photograph that demonstrates how cold water swimming can improve our mental wellbeing has proved more difficult.

Over the past couple of years I’ve taken quite a lot of photos from swimming adventures, with the intention of documenting the positive effects. It’s fairly easy to get the candid photos of people smiling after a swim, but the real effects are much less tangible than this.

I’ve watched friends grow in confidence and have a better understanding of their own sense of self as a result of swimming, myself included. Now, I aim to document the shift in body language whilst preparing in anticipation and on our approach to the water. I am trying to capture the essence of why we swim; the real hardcore benefits of cold water swimming. The type of benefit that makes us crave the cold embrace.

Being prepared for getting the perfect shot to show the positive effects of cold water swimming

It’s only natural that people are self-conscious about their appearance in swimwear. It’s taken time to gain the trust that friends have in me. With that said, I find using my X100V, with it’s small form factor and silent shutter, the best camera for photographing candid moments.

With that said, it is a bit unnerving leaving such an expensive camera in my bag on the sea wall whilst I swim so I’ve started using my old X-E2 with the fun 7artisan [xx] lens a lot. A few years ago we bought an Olympus Tough that I also take into the water. What I’m trying to say is that, this has made me realise that good documentary photography can be created on any camera- just make sure there’s always one nearby.

The lack of male-identifying people in these photographs hasn’t been missed. It is mostly coincidence that I swim with women, yet it’s fairly obvious that more women advocate cold-water swimming, specifically for the mental wellbeing benefits. Why is this? Why are men (generally speaking) reluctant to seen doing something that benefits their mental health? Please, if you identify as a man, and you’re reading this, please get in touch.