After making a splash with his Underwater Puppies series, NY- and LA-based photographer Seth Casteel aims his camera at yet another adorable subject—babies. His latest book, Underwater Babies, is a culmination of more than 65 previously unpublished photographs of chubby-cheeked tots, many of which are exploring the underwater world for the first time.
But his goal isn’t just to show the world how cute and playful babies can be in the water; he has a more important message to deliver. Casteel’s series aims to raise awareness about the value of water safety for infants and young children. In the U.S., unintentional drowning is one of the leading cause of death for children ages 1-4—the top cause after birth defects, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The photographed babies are part of a swimming program designed to get them acquainted with water and to teach them self-rescue techniques, which may help in the event of a real life drowning scenario. The little ones learn how to hold their breath underwater, kick their feet, and turn over to float on their backs until help arrives.
Casteel joined in on infant swimming lessons at 18 different schools across 10 states to capture the adorable babies, who ranged in ages 4.5 months to 17 months, underwater. Because they typically only dunked underwater once or twice for a matter of a second or two during their lessons, his photo opportunities were rather limited.
According to The New York Times, there are 10.4 million residential swimming pools in the U.S., and two children 14 or younger drown in accidental, non-boating incidents every day. But infant swim lessons can instill confidence in children and reduce the risk of drowning by up to 88%. After discovering the statistics about children drowning, Casteel wanted to draw attention to the dangers, and focus on water safety through his latest book to spark a conversation about the issue. He took an estimated 10,000 photos of more than 750 babies, publishing 67 of them.
Photos via Seth Casteel
“After watching a few infant swim classes and learning of the associated benefits, I realized I could possibly help to bring awareness to this cause through a series of joyful images,” Casteel says on his website. “By creating this book, I hope to encourage and inspire parents to consider swim lessons for their children, with the ultimate goal of preventing tragedies.”
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