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Work / Photography

Maggie Shannon captures the competitive spirit of a community swimming team

Photographer Maggie Shannon’s series Thunderbirds sees her document a community swim team on the Upper West Side of Manhattan as they practiced and travelled around for competitions. “I first approached the project looking to explore teamwork between the swimmers, but once I started shooting I noticed that I was drawn to those in-between moments and instances of extreme concentration where the kids are totally absorbed in the act of swimming,” explains Maggie.

“I was fascinated by how my flash looked when it hit the water and started brainstorming a photo project that could utilise this type of stylised look,” Maggie says on how the project began. “Growing up on Martha’s Vineyard, I swam a ton when I was a kid and can still vividly remember the smell of chlorine from the pool where we had practice. I started asking around if any friends had connections to swim teams. Someone did and everything flowed really naturally from there!” 

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Maggie Shannon: Thunderbirds

The kids range from little tots to 18 year olds about to head to college and there’s some beautiful instances captured because of the diverse crowd. “I really loved the awkward moments, like when the kids are mid-dive or turning their head to take a breath,” says Maggie. “I was also looking for when they got into the ‘zone’, that second of extreme concentration that is almost meditative.” The cool, cerulean blues of the pool clash wonderfully with the glare of swimming caps, towels and handmade signs. The photographer got a diverse range of reaction from the kids while she was shooting, “from big grins to kids that were totally oblivious” and it provides the series with warmth and energy, and a real sense of camaraderie.

“I simply want to show these kids as they do something they love. None of them are likely going to be Olympic stars (please prove me wrong kids!) but they make the effort to go to practice and swim their hearts out,” says Maggie. “It was inspiring to see that dedication and commitment.”

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Maggie Shannon: Thunderbirds

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Maggie Shannon: Thunderbirds

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Maggie Shannon: Thunderbirds

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Maggie Shannon: Thunderbirds

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Maggie Shannon: Thunderbirds

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Maggie Shannon: Thunderbirds

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Maggie Shannon: Thunderbirds

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Maggie Shannon: Thunderbirds

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Maggie Shannon: Thunderbirds

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Maggie Shannon: Thunderbirds

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Maggie Shannon: Thunderbirds

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Maggie Shannon: Thunderbirds

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Maggie Shannon: Thunderbirds