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

RELATED: 15 Beautifully Designed Swimming Pools

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