Water Works Photograph Collection
An Inventory of the Collection
"Once upon a time, one of the best stages in town was Barton Springs Pool. That's because every three or four years, Dee McCandless and Gene Menger would take a couple dozen swimsuit-clad performers and present a dance around and in its chilly waters. These aquatic ballets were somewhere between a synchronized swimming routine in an Ester Williams musical and a game of follow-the-leader at a kids' pool party. Dancers would march through the shallows in a conga line and lie on the rocks on their backs, their upturned arms and legs undulating like underwater grasses. They'd form a circle and hit the water in sequence to make a running wave. And most often and most delightfully, they'd parade around imitating assorted animals: apes, seals, crabs, frogs, flamingos, dolphins, elephants ... Not since Ovid have there been so many magical metamorphoses. Water Works celebrated what this city loves about the springs: the natural beauty of the rocks, the trees, the sloping emerald lawns, and the sparkling waters; the playfulness they inspire and also the deep feeling of relaxation and calm; and the shared sense of this site as a communal gathering place for an entire city. The work becomes a piece of guerrilla theatre, unexpected and unexplained, with other bathers looking on in puzzlement and pleasure as all these people suddenly bend at the waist and begin waddling and quacking like ducks or turn forward flips, slapping the water with their legs. Such random acts of creativity were once fairly common here, and it's lovely to see one preserved."
Source: From an Austin Chronicle article written by Robert Faires, printed October 9, 2009.
Doug Manger and Scott Van Osdol are Austin based photographers.
The collection contains 23 signed and dated black & white 11x14 inch photographs documenting the Water Works: Aqua-dance performance on August 9-10, 1985. Photographs depict a group of men and women in swimsuits both in and out of Barton Springs Pool engaged in various synchronized activities. Many of the photos also show the surrounding crowd and their reactions to the performance, as well as children imitating the participants.
Restrictions on Access
Open to all users.
Restrictions on Use
Publication restriction #06: Permission to publish or publicly display photoduplications of these images for non-commercial use only may be granted on the condition that the photographers and the Austin History Center be credited. Commercial use is expressly forbidden.
Water Works Photograph Collection (AR.2002.010). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
Donor #: DO/1985/144
Donation Date: 1985-11-15
Initial Inventory and Preliminary Processing by unknown/2002.
Final Processing and Finding Aid by Erika Koenig/2010.
Finding Aid Encoded by Sarah Sauri/2014.
Detailed Description of the Collection