It is a place that seems out of time. All backgrounds social and the generations blend in, in perfect harmony with the nature that surrounds them. In the heart of New Jersey, a natural swimming pool is the dreamlike theater in which Whitney Hayes guides us, between meditation, met and fun.
In the summer of 2022, photographer Whitney Hayes is working at the Highlands Natural Pool in Ringwood, New Jersey. She will paint the magical picture of an incongruous space, a sort of oasis in the middle of the forest. But before getting there, the American photographer from Baltimore had an atypical career. Today fashion photographer and portrait, she embarked professionally in the eighth art late in 2012, after raising her family in New Jersey where she has lived for nearly twenty years. During the previous four years, the artist was also the helper of his own mother, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. After the death of the latter, suddenly diagnosed with a cancerWhitney Hayes has a time she never had: that of creating. “Being outside and having the distraction of taking pictures was the perfect cure for my heartache, because I wasn’t prepared for it. I started to walk a lot and photograph the woods near my house”says the photographer.
After buying a new iPhone and on the advice of her teenage daughter, she takes to Instagram and begins posting: “The platform’s amateur community was small at the time and very focused on photography. A frame by stylist Donna Karan hired me to work on a campaign through my account, which led to other fashion and portrait work,” she specifies. Since then, Whitney Hayes has collaborated with NikeVSCO, Vogue online and many others. A passionate photographer, she also pursues more intimate projects and says that she is above all guided by her own mood, “in search of emotions in a landscape of disconnection”.
The tree that hides the swimming pool
“My husband and I recently purchased a home in Wyckoff, New Jersey, and the Highlands Natural Pool is nearby. I am a member of the pool, and I often marvel at its quaintness,” says Whitney Hayes. From this fascination, the artist gives birth to a touching series, entitled Solemn August. This natural and welcoming swimming pool, where toddlers, young adults and septuagenarians relax in unison, was dug in 1935 into the side of a hill. In this place community non-profit, beings from all walks of life meet at the bend of a dive. Soft, blue-toned portraits capture a variety of emotions, conveying Whitney Hayes’ admiration for this little corner of heavenand to members of the community that preserves it.
In addition to social and generational diversity, this subject also evokes the biodiversity and respect for the environment. Because the swimming pool, located in the heart of nature and merging with it, does not use any chemicals: “I always feel like I’m dreaming, because it’s such an unexpected and untouched place, which inspires me enormously. Nature is full of snakes, waterfalls, rocks, plants, butterflies and frogs,” adds the photographer. Many of the volunteer members who maintain the premises, now in their 60s and 70s, have been members since their childhood : “A lot of people talk about the environment and its preservation, but this small group of unsung volunteers are actively dedicated to doing their part to help this cause”, she argues. Out of time and of the concrete contemporary world, the places are captured by Whitney Hayes with benevolence, on a medium format film: “I had the impression that this film perfectly conjured up the atmosphere and ambiance of the swimming pool. This swimming pool, itself retroactive, had to be commemorated in an anachronistic way,” she concludes.
© Whitney Hayes
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“Solemn August”: diving where nature and social ties have remained intact
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