The Importance of a Morning Dip in Sweden

In a small coastal town called Torekov in Sweden, a curious ritual occurs each morning and is performed by almost every one of its residents. Each morning, nearly the entire town descends to the local pier, Morganbryggan, for a morning dip into the sea. 

Peggy Anderson, a Swedish American photographer, has been photographing the ritual for nearly ten years. Growing up, she spent many summers in Sweden with her grandparents and other relatives. There, she would often participate in the morning dip herself.

The idea for a photography project began with Anderson’s fascination with the bathrobes worn by Torekov residents—brightly colored, unique, some old enough that they looked as if they had been passed down for generations. The bathrobes told a story of the people of a small Swedish town who had been carrying on a tradition for years.

“I’m documenting a specific place and time and ritual, I’m creating an archive for the future,” Anderson said.

The project consists of portraits, shot by Anderson with a long format camera, of Torekov residents wrapped in their bathrobes with wet hair, water dripping off of them. Anderson wants to capture swimmers naturally, spontaneously. She never retouches her photos.

“A woman who was around my age… didn’t really like the photo because she thought you know, I don’t look my best,” Anderson said. “And then she told me she now has this picture hanging in her house and it’s a reminder to herself that she is really proud of who she is. She feels almost empowered by the fact that she has this picture of herself. I thought that was such a great testament to the project, but also I felt like it was validated for me. What I’m doing is giving something back.”

Over time, the project began to take on a life of its own as Anderson’s understanding and embracing of her Swedish roots grew. Her art’s portrayals represent and uplift dual-heritage, showing a deep understanding of time and how rituals endure. Anderson has photographed generations of family members at the morning dip. Some have passed away, and the children she once photographed are older now. They also reflect and urgency, as the Earth and its oceans warm. Would the residents of Torekov be able to take a dip in the future?

“This project is about time and this ritual continues on and on and bathrobes are passed down from generation to generation,” Anderson said. “I really get a sense of time. And not just like capturing a moment in time with a photograph, I’m literally seeing time pass and the whole repetitive act of it.”

Last week, Anderson photographed a man who was at the pier measuring material levels in the water. It was the first time she integrated someone not wearing a bathrobe into the project. Anderson’s project continues to evolve in new directions to capture the changing times for Torekov, and the world beyond.

Anderson’s exhibit, The Morning Dip, will be on display at the American Swedish Institute from July 21 until Oct. 30.

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