Jillian Edelstein: WATER RATS: Floor 1 and Online


During the Coronavirus lockdown, ten strangers of wildly different ages, backgrounds, ethnicities draw closer as they become a motley crew of outlaws swimming sometimes illegally in London’s wild cold waters. They escape each day as conspirators in the untamed parts of an urban jungle.

"For the Water Rats series I have focused on a group of swimmers (I am one of them) who swim in the wild places in our urban jungle. We continued to do so through the seasons and through Lockdown. The images have centred on a diverse group of Londoners, mixed in ages, careers, interests, who never knew one another before the Covid virus struck. The work includes landscapes, concentrated abstracts of body details, in the landscape, group and individual portraits and through the various weather shifts. Considering the latest trend and ‘fashionability’ of wild swimming, related to the health benefits and the staving off mental deterioration, the interest in wild cold swimming has increased significantly."


Press release



London based Jillian Edelstein began working as a press photographer in Johannesburg, South Africa. She attended the LCC photojournalism course after graduating The University of Cape Town, B.Soc.Sc (Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology Social Work).


Her portraits have appeared internationally in publications including The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The FT Weekend Magazine, Vanity Fair, Interview, Vogue, Port, The Guardian Weekend, The Sunday Times Magazine, Time, Fortune, Forbes, GQ and Esquire. Her photographs have been exhibited internationally including the National Portrait Gallery, The Photographers' Gallery, The Royal Academy, OXO Gallery in London, Sothebys, Les Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie in France, Bensusan Museum, Robben Island Museum in South Africa and Dali International Photography Festival, Yunnan Province, China.


She has received several awards including the Kodak UK Young Photographer of the Year, Photographers' Gallery Portrait Photographer of the Year Award, the Visa d’Or at the International Festival of Photojournalism in Perpignan in 1997, the European Final Art Polaroid Award in 1999, the John Kobal Book Award 2003 included in The Taylor Wessing Portrait Award twice, the AI-AP Archive in 2008 and 2015. A winner in Latin American Fotografia 4 2015, included in World Press Awards twice and a finalist in the 2017 LensCulture Portrait Awards. Jillian was voted on the ‘Hundred Heroines’ list of women from across the world who are transforming photography today. This was announced by The Royal Photographic Society on 14th December 2018.


Edelstein judged the World Press Awards 2014, and the Taylor Wessing Awards in 2010.


Between 1996 and 2002 she returned to South Africa frequently to document the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Her award winning book Truth and Lies, shot on large format, was published by Granta, the New Press and Mail and Guardian in 2002. She is currently working on several photographic projects including a film documentary about the screenwriter Norman Wexler.


Clients include Oxfam, FXB International, Unicef, Save the Children Fund, Tesco, Nespresso, Sony, National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Aviva, BBC, Comic Relief and Fish Love.