Born to swim? – A reflex that seems so unlikely that for years no one was aware of its existence. A baby suddenly immersed in water will seal of its lungs and begin to paddle and kick. The mouth may be open, but the epiglottis (cartilage and tissue which covers the larynx during swallowing, preventing food ‘going down the wrong way’) diverts water away from the lungs. The urge to breathe is suppressed, and immersed babies appear content in their watery environment. This ‘diving reflex’ disappears after six months or so, just when babies start to breathe through their mouth. Once this is gone, immersion in water does not come so naturally. But for our first six months, even before we can crawl, many of us are more comfortable underwater than we will ever be again. – Anthony Smith, The Human Body.
Since 1995 Zena Holloway has worked at the forefront of underwater baby swimming photography. She has photographed new-born babies just a few hours old and been invited to photograph babies and kids at swim schools around the world. In 1998 her ‘Waterbabies’ series won Silver at the Royal Photographic Print Competition and published books on the subject include The Waterbabies (2008), Water Baby (2005), Enfants d’eau (2001) and Water Baby! (1999). In 2018 an Exhibition of her waterbabies series toured three major cities in Korea