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Fifty Shades of Blue

A few posts back, Dan C. wrote about Edward Burtynsky’s Manufactured Landscapes.  I’ve discovered that since that work Mr. Burtynsky has been focused on oil, and even more recently has been deep into water– the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout providing a slick transition between the two.

In a recent interview, Burtynsky had this bit of shocking news:

“I just came back from a conference on the future of photography… One of the curators of a museum in Switzerland had invited students from any art school, anywhere in the world to submit work to be included in a survey of photography of the new generation. The one thing that was consistent in 1,200 submissions was that not one of the students was showing anything that had to do with spontaneity. Spontaneity was gone completely.

…It was all very staged and all very deliberate—not photography as the act of seeing the world or reacting to seeing the world…”

*

This is but a preamble to a sandy county almanac of sorts, The View from Lazy Point: A Natural Year in an Unnatural World, by Carl Safina. Safina’s book has little to do with photography but everything to do with water and seeing and reacting to the world. I checked it out when it was nominated for Orion magazine’s 2012 Book Award, and Safina won me over within the first two pages. Then he won Orion’s award.

Carl Safina is a biologist and advocate; Lazy Point is on the eastern tip of Long Island. He’s founding president of the Blue Ocean Institute and author of six books, including The Voyage of the Turtle and The Eye of the Albatross. As it happened, right after immersing myself in Safina’s aquatic adventures, I snorkeled with a sea turtle and looked an albatross in the eye. That alone is enough for a lifetime, and Safina often does that kind of thing before breakfast. Since my experiences I’ve thought a lot about how even here among the amber waves we’re tied to the ocean’s currents, whether it’s via the fish we eat, or the oil we can’t live without that occasionally spills and spews out of control, or our plastic making its way to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – unless its journey is interrupted by, for example, the digestive tract of a sea turtle.

Despite constantly witnessing such bio-calamities, Safina is far more poet than preacher. Whether he is walking on the beach, swimming among coral reefs, or exploring the changing ecosystems of regions Arctic and Antarctic, he tells it like it is, with empathy and an impressive understanding of what’s going on around him. Unlike that new generation of photographers, he sees much and his reactions, as witnessed through his books, remain as focused and sublime as an albatross’s eye. “The future is by no means doomed,” he says. “I’m continually struck by how much beauty and vitality the world still holds.”

Picture that.

- Jake, Reference

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