New Worthing photo exhibition explores sea swimming's pandemic popularity

A new photography exhibition exploring the rise of sea swimming during the coronavirus pandemic launches in Worthing.

Photo by Jonathan Browning - taken in Brighton
Photo by Jonathan Browning - taken in Brighton

A Winter’s Swim will feature at the new Worthing Borough Council venue The Seafront Gallery, running from May 17-October 31.

The exhibition comes from Jonathan Browning

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Straying from typical subject material, Jonathan’s series captures the pandemic in a new way. The closing of swimming pools saw swimmers taking to the British coasts, which became the main inspiration for the project. Jonathan’s photographic series features 19 images shot at dawn across iconic British coastal locations including Brighton Beach and Shoreham Harbour.

The final images reimagine what it means to be social during a pandemic and present a newfound sense of freedom, bravery and joy.

Jonathan said: “We are living in historic times and I believe it is important to document the unique moments that happen in our day to day lives. I thought this was a wonderful story that is linked to the pandemic without focusing on quarantine or social distancing.”

The exhibition is going ahead with sponsorship from MPB.

Matt Barker, founder and CEO at MPB said: “Jonathan’s work sheds a positive light on a difficult time for many people, and we’re honoured to play a role in sharing that with the local community. We have always been committed to making the field of photography more accessible so that more people can experience uplifting work like this and feel empowered to capture unique moments like this themselves with affordable kit that’s readily available.”

During Jonathan’s time working on this project, he had the opportunity to speak with many sea swimmers in order to understand what draws them to the early mornings and cold waters.

One of those swimmers was Susan Brown, a lifetime sea swimmer from Shoreham.

She said: “The expanse and sense of freedom you can experience when swimming in the sea is like no other. For me the challenge of rising early – and in the dark and cold in winter – increases the feeling of achievement and resilience. Sea swimming, done safely, has many benefits, both physical and mental. If you’re tempted, just get down to the beach. There are no barriers.”

West Sussex Mind and Worthing Mental Health Swims know just how important it is to create non-judgemental spaces for people to meet and support their mental health.

“It’s been a tough year” says Denise Gibbs, West Sussex Mind employee and co-host of Worthing Mental Health Swims.

“Having that time to take a dip, refresh and connect with a wide variety of people is just the sort of tonic for the body and mind that we need right now.”

Jonathan Browning is a London-based professional photographer specialising in documentary, portrait and corporate photography and videography. His photos have been published worldwide in international broadsheets, magazines, adverts and annual reports. Jonathan was the winner of the Portrait of Britain Award in 2019.

The Seafront Gallery was created as part of the Council's ambitious programme of interventions and assistance to support the communities of Adur and Worthing during Covid-19. Applications to exhibit are now open. Head to for more information.

West Sussex Mind is an independent charity, affiliated to but separate from national Mind. Its head office is in Durrington, Worthing, and it supports people with their mental health in Shoreham, Lancing, Worthing, Steyning and Chanctonbury, Littlehampton, Chichester and Bognor, Midhurst and surrounding areas.

Worthing Mental Health Swims is a newly formed group part of a wider national network – Their motto is dips not distance and community not competition. It’s ok to turn up and know that people won’t judge you. A space that’s going to welcome you however your feeling that day.