Tinas — Bañaderas — Bathtubs — Full Immersion

Alexandria & her barquinho — Photograph - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

“I never feel so much myself as when I’m in a hot bath. I lay in that tub on the seventeenth floor of this hotel for-women-only, high up over the jazz and push of New York, for near onto an hour, and I felt myself growing pure again. I don’t believe in baptism or the waters of Jordan or anything like that, but I guess I feel about a hot bath the way those religious people feel about holy water.”

― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

I am inseparable from my bathtub. I wrote about my first memory of one here. But reflecting on it I also remember my mother washing me while I was in the tub. There is also a persistent memory that not only did I sing My Bonny Lies Over the Oceanwith my father in bed but at least once with him in the tub.

The tub became irrelevant in the late 60s in my mother’s house in Veracruz. Perhaps she did not have one. I do know that my Rosemary took frequent showers to escape the tropical port’s heat.

Tubs have been so important that I even had a show in 1989 where I had portraits of 13 women (one at a time) in a tub. That show was preceded by many failed attempts in which I wanted to rationalize why I wanted to photograph beautiful women in them.

It was with Alexandria (a lovely black-haired angel) that I finally found my way. The two pictures here are where I began to use that spotlight. In the end I mounted my tripod on either side of the tub and shot down. I used a technique of having a slow shutter which in tandem with my subjects moving the water with their feet I obtained swirls of light.

In our old Athlone house we had three tubs. The one in the cold basement was a lovely old one where I photographed Gillian — she-of-the-Calvin Klein-perfume. The other two tubs came with leaky baggage. The main bathroom leaked onto the living room ceiling. After realizing this we stopped using it and its shower, too. The second tub (an Ikea bathroom courtesy of the house flippers who sold us the home) had (it took me years to figure this out) a severe over-flow connection that to repair meant the wall in ourbedroom had to be torn down. We lived with the technique of never filling the tub over the over-flow. This meant I could never enjoy and almost full inversion (Baptist style).


In our new home the tub has a Jacuzzi and I can now immerse myself to my neck. I read the NY Times in it and I am constantly wetting the bottom part of it. I must confess I enjoy the paper with a large mug of strong tea. What I need now is a tray (like the ones they have in-your-car hamburger joints that I can strap on one side where I can place my mug and novel.

The high point of every morning and evening for us is that hot tub bath.

Link to: Tinas — Bañaderas — Bathtubs — Full Immersion

Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.