Dream-like pool photography by Karine Laval

French photographer Karine Laval’s work veers from dreamy lido snaps to lysergic-hued nature photography to disconcerting dystopias, yet somehow manages to retain a distinct style throughout.

Laval’s new exhibition Reflections at London’s Crane Kalman gallery is a testament to her ability to create a vast breadth of images while retaining a unique aesthetic, bringing together two bodies of work, The Pool (2002-2005) and Poolscapes (2009-2012).

Laval’s decade-long artistic love affair with swimming pools saw her photograph urban pools, natural pools, holiday pools and private pools across Europe and the US, imbuing these watery oases with a sense of mystery and otherworldliness.

Untitled 46 from Heterotopia © Karine Laval

Throughout this ten-year exploration, we see Laval’s style and focus shift between detailed documentation and painterly abstractions: works from The Pool have a more nostalgic and playful feel, while those from Poolscapes often give reality a sense of reverie and emotion. According to the gallery, it’s in those later photographs that “the pool becomes a metaphor,” with the water’s surface both becoming a mirror and “a gateway into a submerged realm where bathers are distorted and fragmented, revealing the unconscious and darker connotations of the pool.”

The London exhibition also presents Laval’s newest series, Heterotopia. In these images, she takes the natural world as her subject but warps it through manipulating light and colour. The photographer often uses glass and mirrors to create these compositions alongside unusual perspectives and crops, resulting in a beguiling set of shots that twist organic imagery into something bold and surreal. 

Untitled 18 from Heterotopia © Karine Laval

Karine Laval: Reflections runs from 20 July – 19 August at Crane Kalman Gallery, 178 Brompton Road, London SW1 1HQ. The Poolscapes monograph will be published by Steidl in autumn this year.

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