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A Personal Project & Short Story | The Tiny Swimmer Series

This post is about my breakup, and one of the hardest years of my life, 2018.

You've been warned.

I debated on posting this for a while because you know, it's very personal, and I'm private about this part of myself. Upon reflection, I see that it's okay to share this truth; as an artist, it's why I'm good at what I do and why I’m able to create amazing (their words!) images for my clients that tell their story - I have the depth and I'm willing to go to those places, not just the wonderful joyful stops on the journey, but also the stops that aren't always fun or happy or #blessed.

Via the work I do there is an alchemical process - a transformation. If I didn't "go there" and if I wasn't willing to "go there" then this work wouldn't exist. My creative projects are little journeys where I have a face-off with myself - like an ahuyahuasca trip. This is some of the personal work I created to help me process and deal with the sadness and destabilization I felt in 2018.

It may or may not be exaggerated - I'll leave that up to you to decide.

When I started The Tiny Swimmer project, I was with my ex partner Liam*, in Greece, staying in my uncle's summer home. It was 2017, and it was just us - me and Liam, staying there. My parents in another house, a few doors down.

The last time I had spent time in this home, and in Greece, for that matter, was October 2006, 11 years earlier. Because it had been some time since I last visited "the motherland", I remember distinctly where I was in my life, and how I felt at that moment in 2006. I had been journaling furiously in my new laptop - journal after journal after journal on patios in the Mediterranean fall heat, dreaming about this man back home who I had been "spending some time" with; "some time" meaning 3 years, on and off. I was so in love with him, I remember with such lucidity that love, to this day.

But it's 2017, and I'm with Liam, and it's really, really hot outside - over 40 degrees. The air conditioning stays on, and we stay indoors, siesta during the days just like everyone else - there isn't much you can do outside when it's that hot in the villages. Unless you're at the beach, and then, you hide underwater where the light bends and slows and the heat doesn't transfer and penetrate to the sea quite the same as the gravel roads and the air and the dilapidated pavement. I fell into my imagination, I listened to songs on repeat, and I maybe never came back.

The first week we were there, Liam expressed to me that he was feeling cooped up, not knowing the language, being surrounded with my family, and being in this tiny town. Unable to make him happy and also balance the desires of my parents who just wanted to spend time with us, I felt the anxious discomfort of being pulled apart into different directions. I saw pictures of The Tiny Swimmer pop into my head - the character, her environment, and I could see what she looked like and how she moved and what she was up against.

At the end of March, 2018, around the time of my birthday, a space I had been eyeing for a long time, the Pink Mansion, was up for demolition, and this would be the last opportunity I had to book it for a shoot. I had, maybe, a few days left before it was gone forever. I acted immediately, and I called it a birthday present to myself. The day of, we shot and shot and shot. It was fabulous; I felt energized and excited. Best birthday present to myself, ever. It was just around then, where everything started to dissolve.

It wasn't just the relationship that dissolved; a person, a love, these things happen, they dissolve. No, if it were just about the individual, that would have been easier.

Let's face it, women are bombarded with messages about their dying fertility. About their dying fuck-ability. About the disasters that lie ahead if they don't have a partner, a man, to protect and provide for them. Who's going to want to love you now? Who's going to want to fuck you now? Who's going to take care of you and raise kids with you and pick the house you're going to live in, now? Who's going to diagnose your car noises and help you research legal questions and who's going to stop you from stepping out into traffic when you're off in la la land, paying attention to the blue sky? What now, sister, your useful-woman years are up. You're old - didn't play out so well for you, did it?? The fearful thoughts, those ceaseless rollers, you are invisible to them as they toss and drag you underwater.

But when it was the two of us, we are on a sailboat. Our direction, clear as day. The wind would carry us along, and we would live our perfect little life and it was preordained, set, secure, safe.

Me & the engineer, the brilliant Liam - he could solve any problem, shed light on any question, he just always seemed to know the answer, know the way, and if he didn't, he was a voracious researcher and a speed-reader and he could teach himself anything - in record time. I adored him. He was my hero, I trusted him like no one else I've ever known.

But then, there were those other times, he would look at me with such disdain. He would snap in an instant. I was careful - I knew which parts of me to keep hidden. I would cleverly dissociate - he would never know the other "me" ; the identities I would hide in during the storms, and, he never really found out, either. I kept them a secret, slipped into them, slid down, undetected. My eyes would glaze over and I could leave whenever I needed, without ever having to step foot outside our bedroom door.

It's not his fault - we were perfect for each other. I, having learned this long ago from others who took care of me. And it wasn't their fault, either - just an endless stream of sleepwalking and automatic behaviours. A life we're seemingly destined to live.

But they say the brain is plastic, so like, you know, it's possible to change.

It wasn't until October of 2018, after the breakup, that I was able, and ready, really, to go back and have a look at these images we shot. It was like opening the doors to a tiny mom-and-pop second-hand shop after having been shuttered for months - you know, the ones with random shit stacked up high to the ceilings? It was like all the thoughts and ideas that came along with that time were contained within this series. Things, things past, came up into the space, and just when you thought you had sorted through that ceiling-high pile, there was another corner full of crap. I just dumped all of that energy back into the series while I sorted through it. It's a bit long, and some parts of it seem to drag on, but that references how I felt at the time; it's fitting.

There’s no more “us” - but I'm still here, looking back over my shoulder. I’m asking myself if what I see is really there, and I’m always ready for a sudden, unexpected storm.

The Tiny Swimmer, the tiniest of tiny selves. She speaks of the child in all of us, how we grew up and came to be as we observed the world around us and immersed ourselves into it, and into others. When you're this small child, you're often looking at the world around you as if it's separate from you and you're not a part of it, like you're just observing it, but still from within. But the child has trouble understanding the boundaries of where they end and others begin - so navigating this world can feel like you're swimming in, but also dissolving and being swallowed by it.

"Sometimes, I feel like I am you, like I am swimming in your innermost emotional seas."

Thanks to model @cassandraphillipsgrande

*names have been changed

other histories…


party in your honour…


your very favourite dance…


a tiny, tiny swimmer…


playing dress up…


a softer touch…


things that were done to you vs. things that you did…


new light…


a well-rounded woman…


breaking through…


into the jungle…


last dance…


The Tiny Swimmer Project

ghost in the guesthouse…