Three years ago, Estefany Molina set out under starry North Fork skies with a tripod and camera to capture a mystical, perhaps scary, intimate and magical activity: night swimming.
Since then, Molina has captured nearly a dozen subjects in local waters at night. Her body of work has become an intimate glimpse and deep dive into themes of connection, transience and vulnerability.
“There’s a certain uninhibitedness that goes into being daring enough to go out in the water at night,” Molina said in a recent interview.
The project was inspired by key moments from the 31-year-old artists’ life: memories of jumping off a Greenport dock during a summer in love and a cover of the R.E.M. song “Nightswimming,” by Dashboard Confessional, her favorite band. “Those images were things that stuck with me,” she explained, adding that she conceptualized the project long before she began shooting.
She contemplated how she would take the photos in little to no lighting. In a serendipitous moment, Molina met a man teaching his son how to use a Hasselblad camera, renowned for its design and sensors that allow for more detailed images. That connection and friendship was what ultimately allowed her to borrow the camera and create the series.
“The experiences became not only this confessional moment but this baptismal moment,” Molina explained. “We’re in this water, we’re doing this, it’s really weird. We’re kind of confiding in each other. We’re holding space.”
The subjects, she said, weren’t chosen for their appearances but because they were in the midst of change. “Whether it was the falling in love or the loss of it; the start of a new era or the end of an old; an oscillation; a change in trajectory; self-realization. Moments of great change are incredibly sensitive and, in my own sensitivity I sought out others with that same vulnerability,” she said.
After capturing the images, she printed them on a polycarbonate material and enlisted longtime friend and local carpenter Stephen Klipp to build 3’ x 3’ LED lightboxes to display and illuminate the work.
“I always knew that I didn’t want to just put these on the wall,” she said.
Molina unveiled the project in late May during an exhibition at Matchbook Distilling Co. in Greenport and two more experiences are planned. She described the immersive experience as a voyage of “light, sound and spirits.”
First, you enter the dimly lit tasting room before you’re led through the warehouse and production floor. Finally, you reach the multi-sensory display of both enthralling and haunting images, sounds and video that offer insight into the artist’s psyche.
“This project has been so much about process: life process, building, adjusting and pivoting,” she said. That process included a roll of expired or damaged film that didn’t turn out, subjects abandoning the night swimming plans and, of course, the pandemic.
Displaying the work and connecting with viewers at the debut has been special, Molina said. She enjoys seeing how people engage with the project and she hopes it’s unifying for a multitude of audiences.
“We all have encountered moments in life where the floor has fallen out from under us unexpectedly. Moments that have dramatically shifted what we thought our lives would become and have made us question our own judgements and perceptions. Moments where we have had to learn, again, how to swim, how to trust, how to be in the world. It’s a rewilding,” Molina said. “ Through this deeply personal work, I have relearned to trust my own intuition.”
There are two more chances to see Molina’s Nightswimming exhibit at Matchbook Distilling Co., located at 230 Corwin Street in Greenport: Saturday, July 9 and Saturday, Aug. 27 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.
For more information and to learn more about Molina’s work, visit estefanymolina.com/nightswimming.