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'Barton Springs Underwater'

Photographer Martha Grenon dives deep into Austin's favorite swimming hole

By Robert Faires, Fri., May 16, 2014

<i>Open Mouth</i> by Martha Grenon
Open Mouth by Martha Grenon

It took 33 years of living in Austin for Martha Grenon to be baptized into the Barton Springs faithful. She says she's sorry that it took so long. But when the photographer and former Chronicle art director fell into Austin's favorite swimming hole, she fell hard. At the coaxing of a neighbor who had been swimming there every morning for 30 years, she started going and soon became a regular. After a while, she began bringing a camera along and photographing other swimmers. She recently pulled some of her favorite images into a self-published book, Barton Springs Underwater, which is also the basis of an exhibition at Pro-Jex Gallery through the end of June. The book is gorgeous, which should be no surprise to anyone familiar with Grenon's work. Her photos capture that wonderful liquid chill of the 68-degree water and the breadth of humanity that refreshes itself in this sacred spot. In an email, Grenon provided a little background on the work.

Austin Chronicle: Did you shoot these at all times of the year?

Martha Grenon: They were taken at various times of the year. (I swim there every morning, if the weather is not too cold, above 45 degrees.)

AC: What camera(s) did you use?

MG: I started out using one-use underwater film cameras from Walgreens, then purchased a Lumix digital underwater camera that's about the size of a pack of cigarettes. This made shooting so much easier, because I don't have to wind after every shot and it has autofocus.

AC: Do the people you photograph know you're shooting them? Do you have any favorite comments you've heard in the water?

MG: Most of the people I shoot are so concentrated on their strokes that they do not notice me (sometimes crashing into me!), which is why I have no comments to relate.


"Barton Springs Underwater" run through June 30 at Pro-Jex Gallery, 1710-C S. Lamar. For more information, call 512/203-2009. For more information about the book, visit www.blurb.com.

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