Winter swimmers of London Fields Lido

Every year, winter swimmers around the world take the plunge for a New Year’s Day swim – admittedly no hardship if you’re in Australia compared to, say, Finland.
Wherever you are, if you prefer to take on the sport as an armchair spectator you might enjoy this project by photographer Madeleine Waller. The artist was a regular swimmer at the London Fields Lido when she became fascinated by the way people’s identities evolved as they took to the water, and she was inspired to start shooting subjects for her book East London Swimmers. “I noticed how different people look and behave in their swimming costume to how they appear once out of the pool and dressed, so I decided to ask people if they were willing to have their portraits taken,” she recalls. “Almost everyone said yes.”
The resulting collection of images are so evocative that you can almost live the shivers of some, or feel the bravado of others as they stand beneath a sky of varying shades of misty grey to pink.
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Madeleine enjoyed discovering what brought people to the sport – all from being at one with nature to fear of sharks and, in the case of one man, a lust for holding his breath until nearly hallucinating. The subject featured above top, Nick, was in Thailand during the tsunami and wanted to get over his fear of open water.

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As for Madeleine herself, “I prefer the Lido in the winter months when it’s quieter and easier to swim in the lanes.  It’s a wonderful euphoric feeling swimming outdoors when it’s raining or snowing and having a hot shower outside is great. It’s like being at a spa.”
East London Swimmers is published by Hoxton Mini Press. All images featured here courtesy of the artist.

Jill Macnair


Jill Macnair has worked as an interiors journalist for 13 years, contributing to titles including Elle Decoration, The Sunday Times and The Guardian. She set up cult interiors blog My Friend’s House in 2009 with Ros Anderson and continues to run the forum daily.

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