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James Reeve plumbs hidden depths with his still silent pool

Jan-Carlos Kucharek

James Reeve had to weigh down not just his camera but also himself for his still, silent, submerged photograph of the pool at Rudy Ricciotti’s Côte d’Azur Villa 356

James Reeve Villa 356, Bandol, Provence 2017
James Reeve Villa 356, Bandol, Provence 2017

James Reeve says this image is the right way up; and considering the lengths he went to to take it, I’m not going to argue. The pool is at Villa 356 in the Côte d’Azur, designed by Rudy Ricciotti for art collector clients in an isolated, rambling landscape, along the coast from Londoner Reeve’s home in Marseille. Commissioned to document Ricciotti’s work after his Department of Islamic Arts at the Louvre in Paris, Reeve was struck by the singular qualities of this futuristic, one-storey, black concrete villa – mostly by its ‘phenomenal’ 44m long pool, columns rising from it to meet a gravity-defying roof, oversailing its long glass elevation.

By contrast, gravity was used rather than foiled when he returned in 2017 to take this shot. Reeve loves capturing buildings at twilight using a long exposure, and did so here. To counter the significant buoyancy of his camera’s waterproof housing he anchored the tripod with gym plates to the pool’s floor. Reeve himself, almost immobile for hours in 12ºC water, wore three wetsuits, and to stay steady at the viewfinder, tied a bag of rocks to his belt to bear him down. And to ensure the water’s surface was as calm as he needed it to be, he’d hold his breath, descend, wait, open the shutter, wait, close the shutter, then haul himself up. Only then did he exhale.

So much effort to ensure that your presence was nullified, not even by inference; observe even the absence of shadows. This was moonlight on a cold spring evening, its sunless ultraviolet lending a sense of the uncanny to the strange serenity of the inverted.