Judy Starkman – The Secret Life of Swimmers

The Secret Life of Swimmers is a public art project created by Judy Starkman for the City of Culver City. She was also featured on oitzarisme with The Laura Project, about her dear friend, Laura Sharpe, who fell out from the sky…

Blake Almendinger, English Professor.
When I first came to the Culver City Plunge, there was Blake. Fit, incredibly precise, and incredibly tanned. His specialty is the history of the American West. In his office are the books he’s written, and some of the clothes he feels comfortable in.

It is a product of her two passions – photography and swimming. The pool is the Culver City Plunge, in Culver City, California. These images tell a story Judy knows well – that every die-hard swimmer has a life outside the pool. And that swimming is the great equalizer. Each character in “The Secret Life” is seen in the regalia of his or her everyday life and, in an identical pose poolside, baring all. Or nearly all, Judy says the idea came one day in the locker room, when a middle-aged woman, dressed in a business suit began getting herself ready for the water. “I watched as this obviously high-powered, buttoned-down person ‘transformed’ herself in minutes into a profound athlete. She shed her workday uniform and became a swimmer like the rest of us.” It was literally while swimming that Judy envisioned the project, The Secret Life of Swimmers, as a series of diptych photographs, and began asking swimmers to pose. No one turned her down. In addition to living in this virtual gallery, the dual images are currently on display as light pole banners throughout downtown Culver City. Judy says the Culver City Plunge remains a place of refuge and community in the heart of an enormous metropolis, and hopes this project will celebrate that. “Its rare these days to be able to create a project based on personal passion,” says Starkman. “I love making great photos, telling stories, and swimming. For me, it’s the ultimate combination. I’ve always been interested in everyday, real people and fascinated by our diversity and yet, no matter how different our lives may seem, there is always some common ground. These images celebrate the great diversity of our community and bring together an otherwise dispersed group of people. That, and I have 75 new friends I otherwise would never have met.

Renée R., Museum Textile Conservator.
When I first noticed the flowered bathing cap bobbing up and down two lanes over from me, I knew l had my next subject. As a specialist in restoring and preserving clothing from centuries past, Renée is exactly what you see. A real 14th century kind of girl.

Jack Gross, Retired Air Force Pilot.
As a Captain in the US Air Force, Jack flew the F-86 Saber Jet, the fastest plane of its kind in the 1950’s. A lifelong athlete, Jack didn’t truly discover the wanders of swimming until he was injured in a bicycle accident at the age of 76. Today, in his eighties, Jack swims nearly a mile three times a week. And always with his trademark red cap.

Jason Christopher, Personal Trainer.
Jason Christopher sheds his work clothes and hops out to the water’s edge without the least bit of self-consciousness. On his way to be a pro basketball star, Jason lost his leg in a car crash. He has rebuilt himself and his career, and is one of the most decent, inspiring people you’ll ever meet.

Linda Schwartz, Retired Teacher.
When l first met Linda at the Plunge, her hair was soaking wet, pressed flat against her scalp – an unfortunate side effect of swimming. By the time we finished talking, she had transformed herself into the beautiful retiree and world traveler you see here. I told her she could be a model.

Daniel Dobbs, Firefighter.
How can you not notice Daniel? He is a first class athlete. And he needs to be. Daniel is a fireman and paramedic at Station #1 in Culver City. He is equally adept at fighting his way into a burning building as he is making waves at the Plunge.

Judy Starkman studied journalism and sociology in San Francisco in order to have a respectable job. But we all know those aren’t very much fun. Her innate curiosity and general brazenness led her to London where she worked as a journalist for ABC, CNN, and CBS for many years. Judy was never without her camera and shot still photographs for many publications at that time.See other images and projects on www.judystarkman.com or on the project’s website www.thesecretlifeofswimmers.com. Judy also has a Secret Blog.
All the text and images are © Judy Starkman, you are not allowed to use them without permission.