Top positive review
43 of 43 people found this helpful
on 22 November 2002
Artists everywhere - put down your brushes, fold your easels and burn your canvasses: you will never be able to capture the capricious majesty of the sea in a way that matches this folio by Phillip Plisson.
Expensive, large format (this book is A3 sized) photographic collections do not tend to be best sellers, often being relegated to the role of coffee table conversation pieces. In order to minimise publication costs, pictures are often excluded and reams of cheaper text are included. To their credit, Plisson and Thames and Hudson (the publishers) have completely rejected that format. The text, which is traditional in its pointlessness and pretension, has been mercifully restricted to a few scattered pages. This has allowed the inclusion of a greater number of photographs - 197 in all (190 colour), 16 of which are magnificently reproduced foldouts (ie 4 x A3 size).
And what photographs they are. Plisson ('official artist to the French navy' - only in France!) has brought together a collection of seascapes unrivalled in their luxury or composition. The images are initially stupefying, admirably demonstrating the marine extremes of tranquility, tempestuousness, light and dark. But more than that, the viewer finds that, on second glance, the photos are far more complex, illustrating both the relative insignificance of humans in comparison to the scale and power of the ocean, and the lonely disquiet that such insignificance engenders. The book cover, for instance, astounds the reader with a scene of chaotic beauty during a swell off the coast of Brittany; on closer inspection, a small fishing boat can be seen, yawing among the wave crests: we can float on boats, hide in lighthouses and think we're safe - but in fact we're merely tolerated and toyed with by a whimsical master.
Plisson is famed for his views of lighthouses, photos which have formed the basis of many a calendar and 'inspirational' poster. Together with the rather more generic pictures of sailing yachts, these images form the commercial end of Plisson's work. However, it is the purer seascapes that impress the most, particularly 'Biarritz' (p24-25) and 'Ireland' (p107-110), which depict brooding foretastes of the violence to come. Images of waves crashing against coastlines ae rendered even more effective by the quality of the photography and the scale of the reprints. My favourite? p118-119 Achill Island in Ireland - a truly remarkable photo of sunlight breaking through a stormy sky in the aftermarth of a storm.
Bravo, Mr Plisson - a maritime tour-de-force!