Irene Kopanska moved to Hull to attend university at the age of 18, and began swimming regularly at Beverley Road Baths. Now in her forties, and still swimming, she’s documented her friends and others at the baths in a photographic exhibition.
“I’ve always enjoyed taking photographs,” said Irene. “I just thought I could do a show.”
There are about 60 images in Irene’s exhibition which is now on display in the foyer of Beverley Road Baths, and runs until Friday 3rd April. The images have been taken above and below the waterline, and the photographic project took Irene about six weeks to complete.
“At the beginning I thought I’d ask people but thought no-one would sign up to do this, after a couple of days there were 25 names on my list of people who couldn’t wait to take part. I was astounded,” said Irene.
The images in the exhibition are mostly portraits. Many participants have also been interviewed by Irene. Their stories reveal some lovely insight, not just about their reasons for swimming but also about their growing friendships and the sense of community that has developed at the baths.
Irene said: “Some are here to alleviate a condition or an injury, others are training for a future event. Others are here to see family and friends, and to meet up with them in the pool, rather than just going for a coffee. A lot of it is social.”
Irene’s photographic style is straightforward, and she keeps her craft simple.
“I’ve taken pictures for years, and now it’s so easy with digital cameras. A lot of these images were taken from an iPad, it’s fast and simple. I’m not a technical photographer. Nothing is retouched, nothing is photoshopped, it’s as it is,” said Irene. The simplicity of her photographic technique complements the imagery well, with her subjects also presenting themselves ‘just as they are’.
“People’s kindness and willingness to be involved, and their wish to be involved really surprised me,” said Irene. “It’s lovely.”
Irene said she’d found this project a real challenge, but a welcome one. She wanted to push herself to do something outside her comfort zone.
Asked about whether this experience has inspired her to explore further photographic projects and exhibitions, she replied: “I do a lot of open water swimming as well, I might look at that in the future, cold water swimming.”
Irene’s exhibition is on display at Beverley Road Baths until 3rd April.
[Jerome Whittingham – Editor, HULL IS THIS]