Wild Women photography exhibition of winter swimmers

06th September, 2019

Bath-based photographer Francesca McColl’s series Wild Women is currently on display at a Bradford-upon-Avon gallery.

The project focuses on a community of intrepid women who brave the winter waters of England’s rivers and lakes. It includes portraits of the Wiltshire Wild Swim group, as well as Jules McRobbie and the OSS’ press officer and Swim Champ Ella Foote.

Francesca began the project in September 2018 during her final year at university, while looking for a project focusing on natural landscapes. During her research, she came across an article regarding the benefits of cold-water swimming and as a keen swimmer, was immediately intrigued by the subject and felt nostalgic for the wild swimming she did when she was younger.

Initially taking photos from the shore, Francesca felt too removed so bought a wetsuit and joined her subjects for a swim. She says: “I made the process of photographing as informal as possible, by chatting and swimming with them. In some ways it became less about the photography and more about hearing their personal stories.

“The way they presented themselves so confidently in front of my camera, in quite a vulnerable position, was incredibly brave and I admire them for their no-nonsense attitude.”

The project is ongoing and one that Francesca hopes to continue to develop over many winters to come – along with her rekindled love of wild swimming.

Nine of the photos are currently on display at the Glove Factory Studios in Bradford-on-Avon. Alternatively, see more of Francesca’s photography on her website or follow her on Instagram.

Justine Harvey