Artist and filmmaker Natasha Brooks grew up in the rural Pennine Hills of West Yorkshire, England. Brooks and her siblings were usually found playing outdoors with sticks, mud and farm animals. They were also drawn to the nearby rivers and bodies of water, particularly in the summer months.
Brooks’ fascination for the water increased from childhood. She began swimming competitively in her 20s, but motherhood has since, not surprisingly, altered her priorities. Now a mother of two, Brooks, 37, still gets into the water as much as possible. She is an avid surfer, swimmer and free diver; she can hold her breath underwater for more than five minutes. Brooks documented her joys of year-round naked swimming in the mountain lakes of Snowdonia, North Wales, in the short film Bluehue.
‘I just like water. I love the sensation of it, the energy of it, the way the light dances with it, the ever-changing nature of it, and all the activities I can do within it. I love to be in it, love to glide through it, dive deep into it and feel its humbling weight. I decided to make Bluehue to share my experiences and the spectacular environment I am lucky enough to be exploring.’
The film won the British Mountaineering Council ‘Women In Adventure’ film competition and LLAMF ‘Spirit of Adventure’ Award. Bluehue was an official selection for BANFF 2015, BANFF world tour 2016, Kendal Mountain Festival 2015, and Sheffield Mountain Festival 2015. It was also featured in Channel 4’s Life on the Edge series.
Brooks isn’t an exhibitionist by any means. She was raised in a very liberal environment where nakedness wasn’t viewed as shameful or necessarily sexual. Brooks recalls rare sunny days in the Pennines when her mother would ‘throw my sisters and I outside to play naked and get some sunshine on our skin.’
Brooks wears a bathing suit when swimming around others, but as in Bluehue, she was alone in the secluded mountain lakes of North Wales.
‘If there is no one around, I’ll always choose to swim naked,’ she said. ‘It really does make all the difference. Your skin is your largest organ, extremely sensitive to touch and temperature. To encompass yourself in the movement of water, with no barrier, you become hyper aware of this. The sensation takes over all other sensory input.’
‘There is something very primal and honest about skinny dipping and it just feels wrong to wear a suit. When there is no one else around, you have to ask who you would be covering up for? I find the thought that anyone would still feel the need to cover up in this situation a little sad and telling of our times.’