Sharks. Face-to-Face With the Ocean's Endangered Predator
by Michael Muller
2016, 334 pages, 11.5 x 15 x 1.5 inches
Sharks. The word alone conjures images of grey and white shadows, dorsal fins slicing through the water, row after row of fierce, terrifying, teeth. And we love them for it. Since Jaws first made us all afraid to go into the water, sharks have become our favorite bad guys. We paint them as the apex predators, devouring everything that dares enter their territory, including we frail, defenseless humans. And then we anthropomorphize them into relentless, driven killers, intent on feasting upon every last one of us. While this characterization makes for great entertainment, it has also lead to the idea that shark attacks are the result of killing machines stalking easy prey instead of the mistaken identity accidents that they are. This, combined with a pronounced market for shark fins, liver, and other body parts has lead to a severe decline in several shark species across the globe.
Sharks are magnificent animals. They are the undisputed kings of the sea, at home and graceful in the ocean, beautiful and awe inspiring to watch. This beautiful animal, while dangerous, is something to be respected rather than feared; they are animals that offer far more in their exotic beauty than ever they could cut up in rare dishes and cuisine. Which is exactly what underwater photographer Michael Muller shows us in Sharks. Face-to-Face with the Ocean’s Endangered Predator.
This book, Muller’s first, presents the culmination of over a decade’s worth of close encounters with sharks both small and gargantuan, both fierce and gentle, both rare and common. The photographs show incredible beauty at close range and in their natural habitats, all the better to help us overcome our fears, the better to see sharks for the graceful animals they are.
Presented by Taschen, this book is huge, beautiful, and comprehensive. Arranged geographically, the photos are printed on heavy, matte paper that allows a full range of colors and tones. The photos are also presented without context. Rather each photo is given its own page or two (or three or four in the gatefolds) and explanations and details are saved for the picture index in the final pages. Additional indices include essays by Philippe Cousteau, Jr. and Dr. Alison Kock detailing the need for conservation efforts as well as an overview of Muller’s work and technique by Arty Nelson. Perhaps the most important, or maybe just most interesting index is the Species Notes, written by Dr. Kock, which includes each species place on the Red List of Threatened Species.
This is an amazing, hefty (seriously, you’re gonna need a bigger boat, er, shelf) tome full of stunning photos of wildlife at its most majestic. Pick up a copy for the photographer and wildlife lover in your life and, next time you see a shark on the big screen in the role of bad guy, maybe try to see things from its point of view?
– Joel Neff