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It’s fine once you’re in – Zoe Ballantine

‘It’s fine once you’re in’ is a project that started in January this year, shortly after I started sea swimming at Portobello beach in Edinburgh, Scotland.

What started as a dare with a friend quickly became an obsession, willing Sunday mornings to come around for another chance to experience the thrill of cold water. As both swimmer and photographer, I am drawn to the different moods of the sea– one day calm and forgiving, the next thrashing and wild.

There is a power in the sea that provides a lesson in acceptance – you can’t decide what type of swim you will have or what type of photograph will emerge. The sea will always do its thing, offering an immersive environment and amorphous energy that reminds how we are part of something so much bigger than our individual selves. The only option is to embrace it wholeheartedly. 

My photographs place you in the water with me, experiencing the consistency of change that sea swimming imposes. The elements of photography that in normal circumstances are controlled in unison; light, scale, focus, movement – all intersect and come to the fore photograph by photograph as the sea dictates the environmental experience.

Fellow swimmers, glimpses of landscape or the movements and forms of the water itself all become part of images that change and abstract according to the sea. The project will be a lifelong collection documenting the water I swim in. Each swim and each photograph is a reminder of the strength it takes to overcome the fear of the cold, to relinquish control of both my everyday and my artistic practice and walk into the sea. It is, after all, fine once you’re in.

I am a photographer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. I am interested in the daily interactions we have with the spaces we inhabit, both natural and architectural. I am especially interested in documenting in-between places that often go unnoticed.


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