A new photography exhibition exploring the rise of sea swimming during the coronavirus pandemic, has landed in Worthing. Created by photographer Jonathan Browning and sponsored by Brighton-based MPB, A Winter’s Swim is running at Worthing Borough Council’s new exhibition space, The Seafront Gallery, until October.
Straying from typical subject material, Browning’s series captures the pandemic in a new way. The closing of swimming pools saw swimmers taking to the British coasts, which became the main inspiration for this project. This photographic series features 19 images shot at dawn across iconic British coastal locations including Brighton Beach and Shoreham Harbour.
“We are living in historic times,” says Browning. “I believe it is important to document the unique moments that happen in our day to day lives. I thought this was a wonderful story that is linked to the pandemic without focusing on quarantine or social distancing.”
The London-based Browning specialises in documentary, portrait and corporate work. The winner of 2019’s Portrait of Britain Award , his photos have been published worldwide in international broadsheets, magazines, adverts and annual reports.
“Jonathan’s work sheds a positive light on a difficult time for many people, and we’re honoured to play a role in sharing that with the local community,” said Matt Barker, Founder and CEO at MPB, the world’s largest online platform for used photography and videography equipment. “We have always been committed to making the field of photography more accessible so that more people can experience uplifting work like this and feel empowered to capture unique moments like this themselves with affordable kit that’s readily available.”
The exhibition’s images reimagine what it means to be social during a pandemic and present a newfound sense of freedom, bravery and joy. During Jonathan’s time working on this project, he had the opportunity to speak with many sea swimmers in order to understand what draws them to the early mornings and cold waters.
One of those was Susan Brown, a lifetime sea swimmer from Shoreham. “The expanse and sense of freedom you can experience when swimming in the sea is like no other,” she says. “For me the challenge of rising early – and in the dark and cold in winter – increases the feeling of achievement and resilience. Sea swimming, done safely, has many benefits, both physical and mental. If you’re tempted, just get down to the beach – there are no barriers.”
West Sussex Mind and Worthing Mental Health Swims know just how important it is to create non-judgemental spaces for people to meet and support their mental health. “It’s been a tough year” says Denise Gibbs West Sussex Mind employee and co-host of Worthing Mental Health Swims – “having that time to take a dip, refresh and connect with a wide variety of people is just the sort of tonic for the body and mind that we need right now.”
The Seafront Gallery was created as part of Worthing Borough Council’s ambitious programme of interventions and assistance to support recovery amongst local communities during COVID-19.
A Winter’s Swim runs at Worthing’s The Seafront Galley until Oct 2021