In Conversation with Fiona Basile

An accomplished photographer and writer, Fiona brings over two decades of experience to her craft. Although she currently lives in Melbourne, Australia, her professional journey has taken her far and wide, allowing her to immerse herself in diverse cultures and environments. Fiona’s true passion lies in storytelling, as well as capturing the essence of people and their lives, and the places that breathe life into our world. Through her work, she inspires others to embrace a more joyful and fulfilling existence. Immerse marks her fourth photographic book, adding to her impressive body of award-winning work, which includes an internationally published children’s book.

Fiona has always been a water baby, but the 2020/2021 COVID pandemic lockdowns in Melbourne opened up a new world of daily open water swimming, and a deeper sense of community, connection, and friendship. Immerse is her way of celebrating and sharing the stories and beauty of open water swimming and the ocean, with others.

A collection of Fiona’s open water swimming and ocean photos are available as beautiful large-scale wall art, available for purchase on her website: 

How did you get into photography/writing and producing a book? Was it by accident or design?

I’ve been a photographer (and writer) in one guise or another since my early 20s. I’ve always loved capturing people’s stories through photography and words. I’ve photographed and project managed four other books in my career, but when it comes to this latest book, Immerse, that’s a whole other story. This is the first book that I’ve created from scratch, not for a client, but for myself and the community in which I live. So …

My story and connection with the open water swimming community in Seaford, a bayside suburb of Melbourne, began during the 2020/2021 COVID pandemic. At the time, we were restricted to a 5km radius, and an hour of outdoor exercise. By June 2021, I decided I needed to ‘get out’ and do something for my heart and soul. So, at dawn, with camera in hand, I walked to Seaford pier. There, I discovered a group of people swimming out to the pole. ‘They’re crazy! It’s the middle of winter!’, I thought. And while I was standing at the end of the pier, looking out toward the swimmers, a pod of dolphins swam by. We were all exhilarated by the experience, and in that moment, I felt so alive. Meeting some of the swimmers back on shore, I was invited to join them, and feeling the need to ‘do something different’, from the next day—4 June 2021—I commenced my open water swimming journey in Seaford. I’ve never looked back.

After a few months, once I’d reached one of the 5-knot poles out deep, I was gifted a GoPro (underwater camera), and there started my new affinity with ocean photos and open water swimming photos, capturing the people I was swimming with. Over time, as people saw the posts on social media, they made enquiries about purchasing prints, so I set up a new website dedicated to my open water swimming photography and ocean wall art. At the start of this year, thinking I needed ‘a heart project’ and inspired by the beautiful open water swimming community around me, and the amazing stories I’d come to learn, I thought I’d create a beautiful photographic book that shared not only the photos, but also the stories of the swimmers. We’re an eclectic and diverse bunch of people, coming from all walks of life, professions and backgrounds, and a wide range of ages. But our love of water and swimming brings and holds us together. As the book went to print, we had 65 members of the Seaford Pole Dancers (you’ll have to get the book to find out more about the name and the group’s beginnings). I’m sure our group will continue to grow.

The book took 10 months to complete and a massive team of professionals, including Sally Brownbill, to help bring it to life. And in essence, while COVID may have given rise to many challenges, the book highlights how it has also brought together a group of local swimmers who value friendship, community, connection, and care for each other and our natural world. Immerse is my way of celebrating and saying thank you to all who’ve been part of my Seaford open water journey. And to those who read for the first time about our early morning swims at Seaford, I am sure that the stories and experiences we share in its pages will inspire others to embrace the water and to find sanctuary in its inky depths. 

So far, what’s been the biggest challenges of your career?

There are many challenges in being both a small business owner and a creative soul. There’s balancing my time between personal life and work, and making sure I set clear boundaries so every waking hour isn’t spent working. There’s that underlying pressure to ensure there’s ‘always enough money’ in the bank given you’re the boss and income relies on the work you generate and do. You can’t rely on a weekly or monthly salary. I find keeping up to date with the latest sales and marketing and social media strategies challenging. Things change so quickly, and keeping up to stay connected, and relevant, and known, and employed can be exhausting. Having said all those things … they’re also what make being a freelance photographer and writer so enjoyable, and the challenge keeps things ‘real’ and feeling alive.

What is your most important goal?

To keep creating beautiful photographs and stories that move and inspire hearts, minds and souls … and which can support me financially, to continue living the life I live. And to do this while living a whole-hearted, healthy, life, with those I love. And always doing what I love, and being a person that I love.

Life is a rollercoaster. What did the "going down" times teach you?

That family and friends are only a phone call away, and that it’s ok, and in fact, necessary, to call for help. It’s also ok to have some ‘down time’ away from the hustle and bustle of work and social life, to just regroup and replenish and get back on track for yourself, when ready. That’s really important. Oh, and I looooove sleep!

Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?

I wish I’d travelled overseas way more as a younger woman. I had lived overseas for three years, and came back to Australia, and I do travel a lot each year, but I’d love to do more! I have a big, adventurous heart and soul, and travelling and exploring brings me such life and joy, as does sharing the beauty of the people and places I meet. So, the lesson is … do what you can, when you can, while you have the health and energy to do it. And for me, that’s more travel and living abroad, while taking photos and writing, to capture all of these adventures. And sharing it with others.a

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