Dive Into the Long History of the Swimming Pool

Summer is here, and people across the northern hemisphere are ready to hit the pool. For millennia, humans have been re-creating natural swimming holes in forms ranging from ancient baths to 20th-century British lidos to the kidney-shaped plastic-lined pools of contemporary suburban America. We’ve done so for different purposes, too, from leisure and play to holistic healing to fitness and sport. Then there’s the aesthetic draw—pools have long inspired artists, from the painters capturing images of bathers to filmmakers creating iconic scenes below the surface. A new book, The Swimming Pool in Photography, by Francis Hodgson ($55, Hatje Cantz), looks at the pool specifically through the lens of photographers, showcasing more than 200 works by such artists as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Emma Hartvig, and Larry Sultan. Here, we peek at a few images from the book’s pages, transporting ourselves to bygone eras or the dreamy vacation homes of today.

This photo, taken in 1961, wasn’t staged. A drunk driver mistakenly “parked” his car in his swimming pool.

Photo: Keystone/

An unnamed woman reclines poolside in the 1950s.

Photo: © H. Armstrong Roberts /

Blandine Fagedet dives into the Georges Vallerey pool in Paris in 1962 as part of a diving contest. She won.

Photo: Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via

Photographer Diego Opazo captures this moment at a cliffside home designed by Fran Silvestre Arquitectos.

Photo: Diego Opazo, © Fran Silvestre Arquitectos

Sunbathers lie by the Deligny pool in Paris.

Photo: Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via

Girls line an indoor pool at the Mount Vernon Seminary in Washington, D.C.

Photo: Frances Benjamin Johnston, © Library of Congress

Dudley Williams and her son, Dag, swim in a hotel pool in Vail, Colorado.

Photo: Carol M. Highsmith, © Library of Congress

The Swimming Pool in Photography.

Photo: © Hatje Cantz

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