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Winky Lewis’s New Edition Makes a Synchronized Splash

Cousins, 2017 by Winky Lewis
8"x10" ($24) | 11"x14" ($60) | 16"x20" ($240) | 24"x30" ($1200)

Winky Lewis has a way with summer. We’re calling it an instinct, one that’s been finely tuned by warm weeks with her family on a rustic island in Maine, camera in tow. Her kids take to the habitat—the very same her husband spent his childhood summers splashing around—with free-wheeling fervor. Lewis relishes in photographing one of her favorite places, and the kids provide a perfect subject. There’s something about youthful frolicking that feels both majorly enchanting and mysteriously out of reach to us office-bound adult-types. Give us your sun-soaked barefoot adventures and bathing-suit-clad bliss! We’ll be over here in deep denial of our end-of-summer blues.

Like Lewis’s debut edition, Cousins, 2017 was shot on the small Maine island mentioned above. The cousins pictured are indistinct forms, lighter shapes in the composition abstracted by the surface of the water under which they’re submerged. Save for the two pairs of feet toward the bottom right, you might wonder what you're looking at. The angle of the shot is also delightfully disorienting. Lewis’s bird’s-eye view creates a sort of two-dimensionality that makes the scene seem even more abstract. Light sparkles and reflects within the frame, the texture of the water belying its liquidity, crinkled like a sponge painting.

As with Lewis’s first edition, the fact that today’s image is in black and white underscores its otherworldliness, further unfastening the underpinnings of reality by removing the colors cues that might give us a more unambiguous impression of place or time. To take it a step further, let’s say the deep black recalls the darkness of space. Are these two cousins daringly diving into the great unknown? Their forms are propelled across the frame, and with them a sense of movement. Most of what we see is what they’ve left in their wake, and it’s easy to imagine their pale shapes streaking off to the right, out of view. Maybe it’s a metaphor for the flash of summer whizzing by, or the whimsical, fleeting magic of childhood minutes like these.

It’s just like Lewis to know precisely how to transform an ordinary occasion into an extraordinary photograph, one that goes beyond beautiful image-making. Cousins, 2017 is more than a striking shot of two cousins blurred beneath the water in a synchronized dive—it’s a complex monochromatic moment. There’s nuance and ephemerality, a nod to the feeling of youthful freedom, to the unfettered exploration summer vacation calls to mind.

With all due respect for autumn (we love you, girl), the final hours of park picnics, beaches and beating sun will always be bittersweet. That’s where Cousins, 2017 comes in. Changing seasons have nothing on Lewis’s black and white water-awash beaut, which promises a short wait of a few hundred days before we’re diving back into summer’s myriad, magnificent unknown escapades. We can’t think of a better way to ease our end-of-summer woes.

Want more? Catch writer and editor Marni Katz’ intro for Lewis’s debut edition…

Correction: In our 9/16/17 newsletter we misnamed Ellen Pao's former employer. Pao's landmark lawsuit was brought against venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins.