The McCarren Park Pool is an eight-minute walk from my apartment, and on some hot afternoons I come and swim for half an hour. This has been one of the hottest summers on record and a perfect season to relaunch a pool that’s been closed for twenty-eight years.
I made these portraits on June 28th, the first day of the pool’s millennial rebirth. These photos are of those who chose to brave a long line and get there before word-of-mouth spread. Word-of-mouth would spread but mostly in the form of blog posts latching on to one or two negative incidents, amplifying them to a level that defined the space to a public that hadn’t been to the pool or now may never come. [Ed.’s note: Yes, we’ve mainly reported the bad news.] (I’d be interested to know, of the many writers who’ve covered the few pool infractions with an exaggerated tone of menace and repulsion—how many have even visited the pool? How many New Yorkers who have read or reposted their stories have visited the pool?) I haven’t read a word about the free healthy lunch program for all kids under eighteen. I saw it one day as I was leaving—kids just held out their hands and got a healthy bagged lunch. No I.D., no signing up, they just got it handed to them on the way out. All one even needs to go to the pool are some swim trunks and a lock. No money, no I.D. and it’s all yours.
The people in these photographs represent the democracy of the pool. And not unlike the day-to-day life of this city of eight and a quarter million people, comprised of all different races and religions and socio-economic backgrounds, everyone gets along so much better in reality than they do in the news.
As I write this, at the pool, all I hear is the splashing of happy swimmers, an occasional double whistle, and a group of kids responding with “Polo” to one lone “Marco.”