By Emily J. Weitz
When Kelly Klein began compiling images for her first book of photography focused on pools, which came out in 1992, she was just doing research. She was thinking of putting a pool at her East Hampton home and found the resources available on the architecture of pools to be unsatisfying.
So she did her own.
“Pools,” the hardcover coffee table book that resulted, became an architectural history of how pools developed from the 1920s to the 1980s. This year, Klein follows up the popularity of that book with a second on the subject. “Pools: Reflections” is a compilation of work from photographers all over the globe showcasing interesting pools and the provocative scenes that take place around them.
“The architecture of water is very interesting to me,” says Klein. “You can build so many pool shapes in the ground, colors, the way the sun reflects off the water. I do these books mainly for architecture, but they become more than that. It’s lifestyle, fashion, photography. And it’s very global, pulling from all over.”
“Pools: Reflections” features the work of some of the most established photographers in the world, including Steven Meisel and the late Robert Mapplethorpe. But Klein also reached out to people in obscurity, people who didn’t consider themselves photographers at all.
“I started with great photographers I knew,” says Klein, “and then I researched thousands of photos from blogs or Facebook. You can find obscure images from people traveling the world who snap pictures of their travels. So I found these people and I contacted them, saying, ‘I love this pool picture you took in Turkey. Can I use it for my book?’ I probably started with 1000 and narrowed it down to my favorites.”
The book consists of 180 images, chosen for a variety of reasons.
“As in all my books, I don’t choose a photo just because it’s beautiful. I choose it because the pool is spectacular or it’s an interesting picture that makes me laugh, or sometimes because it’s an edgy picture, or there’s something interesting going on around the pool.”
This book, as opposed to her first, features more lifestyle pictures, more people. But it’s also very design-focused.
“I like to inspire people when I do these books, and help them get ideas. Shapes and colors and tiles, like the Missoni pool, which looks like a Missoni towel, but it’s a swimming pool.”
One trend Klein has noticed in swimming pools is that some designers are experimenting with the color red, which is quite disarming when you first see it.
“The first time I saw a red pool was in Fire Island in the 80s,” says Klein. “It was a black rubber pool with a red lamp. When you turned the pool on at night, it made the water really look like blood. I didn’t see another red pool for thirty years, until I was researching this book. There’s a trend going on right now where pools are being tiled red. It’s a little bit jarring. It’s so different and it does look a bit bloody.”
Another trend in pools in recent years is the trough-style swimming pool.
“The swimming pool is slightly above ground,” explains Klein. “It’s basically a cement box. You fill the box with water, and there’s a low cement wall. It’s taken from cattle troughs and a lot of people are doing them now, which is interesting architecturally.”
“Pools: Reflections” is coming out through Rizzoli, but all the proceeds that Klein earns will go to ACRIA, an AIDS foundation that uses art as a way to help raise money for people who are sick.
“With all of my books, I try to give away all of my profits to an AIDS foundation. For every book I choose a different foundation. ACRIA is based in New York but hosts a lot of events on the East End, and a lot of local people are involved.”
Donna Karan will host Klein at Urban Zen on Bay Street in Sag Harbor for a book signing for “Pools: Reflections” on Saturday, October 20 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.