Shane Powers – Swimming with ghosts


Rowing With Legends, Swimming With Ghosts – The Dolphin Swimming & Boating Club: 2005-2009

”I’ve always felt that places that are special to us, places we treat with reverence and respect, are much like relationships between loving people. We protect and nurture, create traditions, weather storms, yearn for a deep connection while also looking for an undiscovered part of ourselves in that place, in that loved one. This relationship can become almost like a religious pursuit – a search for self, for community and for service to an ideal in which our devotion to it makes us an integral, symbiotic part of it.



I have found a place like this at San Francisco’s Aquatic Park, in a 133-year-old icon called the Dolphin Swimming & Boating Club. Its members joyously go there to swim in the Bay’s frigid waters, to row shells, kayaks and handmade Whitehall rowboats, to exercise in various other ways, but also to enjoy each other’s company; to preserve old-world traditions, to cook meals together, and to escape the stress of The City. Signs of their presence are everywhere. The building and the Bay and the people overlap in body and practice – the water, sand and wood of the club and the bay hold the hearts, minds and sweat of every member. The past and present are also hard to separate in a place full of very tangible memories captured in photos, art and memorabilia. Even the rowboats are named for members long since departed but not forgotten.



I have swum, rowed, cooked and dined with these parishioners of tradition. Along the way I’ve captured images of what I feel to be a perfect balance between the club and its people and the Bay they inhabit, members who simultaneously long for community while also searching for themselves – a daily journey I like to call “group solitude”. Even when they hit the water together to swim and row as friends, once they begin to settle into the mediation of each stroke, they are alone. Awareness is inverted by the vast imposition of the sea – just as aloof as a summer mountain sky, but closer, more mysterious and frightening. In the sea, we ask the same giant questions as when we stargaze, but with a thrill of intimate, immediate fear.”



more images and other interesting projects on Shane Powers’ website