B.A.M. designs new Lou Stoppard book on swimming pools in photography
Published by Rizzoli, the book brings together a sumptuous selection of photos by artists such as Martin Parr and Diana Markosian, depicting serene swimmers and perfect water.
- Matt Alagiah
- 1 April 2020
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
Nothing offers escapism quite like a beautifully designed and smartly curated photo book, and Rizzoli, Lou Stoppard and B.A.M. have combined to produce the perfect offering for our cooped-up times. POOLS – or, to give it its full title, POOLS: Lounging, Diving, Floating, Dreaming: Picturing Life at the Swimming Pool – is a new book focused on swimming pools in photography, spanning various disciplines from fashion to art to architecture. It’s a rich paean to the pool and, flicking through it, you can almost feel the sun on your skin and catch that oddly comforting smell of chlorine.
“The book came to us through Lou,” says David McKendrick, who co-founded design studio B.A.M. along with Lee Belcher, explaining that the book was “her brainchild”. The pair had previously collaborated with the writer and curator on North: Fashioning Identity, a photography exhibition examining contemporary representations of the North of England, back in 2017. So, it was a great opportunity to reignite their collaboration.
Aside from the fact that there are several fanatical swimmers among the B.A.M. team, the edit of photography made the project an immediately enticing one. “From a content point of view, we got hugely fired up by the calibre and the edit of photography. It is an incredible piece of curation,” says David. Among the selected artists are Diana Markosian, Martin Parr, Sølve Sundsbø, Glen Luchford, Stephen Shore, Turkina Faso, Joyce Zse Ng, Nick Knight and Stephan Zirwes (plus many more besides). The book is divided up into chapters – some more straightforward, such as Architecture; others more evocative, like Freedom – and ends with a global guide to some of the world’s most interesting pools.
GalleryPOOLS: Lounging, Diving, Floating, Dreaming – Picturing Life at the Swimming Pool
For the most part, David and Lee allowed the design to be guided by that photography. “We could let such a rich foundation of photography lead the design of the book, but still have a couple of opportunities to tap into the rich graphic aesthetic of swimming pools.” As with all B.A.M.’s projects, here you can tell that communication and clarity have been given primary importance, and that the content has led the way.
Those “couple of opportunities” David mentions did present themselves later on in the process, though. (As he puts it, “We often find these design ideas appear or resolve themselves as the process develops.”) The jacket and the endpapers were two places where he and Lee “could experiment and explore the swimming pool aesthetic”, he says. “This is where we could think in terms of process, design and materials.”
One idea that the pair really fought for was that the book should have a water-resistant jacket. Not that it’s a cheap novel designed to be read by the pool, the humidity curling the pages, but it felt appropriate. The clear, light-blue plastic cover has the advantage that it protects the soft-bound book, giving it a longer life expectancy. “It also smells like an inflatable pool floatie, or whatever you call them,” says David. “So when you flick through the book, the smell adds to the pool-like experience.” Plus, it complements the cover image, a photograph of a submerged model by Sølve Sundsbø.
The endpapers, meanwhile, are decorated with a dot pattern that has been slightly distorted, as if you’re looking down into the deep end of a crystal-clear pool, the water refracting the pattern. The challenge here was doing something that didn’t feel too “naff or cliché”, says David, adding that distorting type in this way would have been a step too far. “In the end we developed and settled on what appears a simple graphic distortion, which was actually quite complicated procedure to create and look natural.” As they are in the finished book, they’re a subtle but neat touch to elevate the design.
The description of the book that Rizzoli offers on its website reads: “A celebratory ode to the joy and enduring allure of the swimming pool, and a gorgeous photography book to accompany poolside daydreaming.” We could all do with a bit of that right now.