Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Doubilet and co in London Town.

This Monday 25th October saw a visit to the Zoological Society London by two of the most recognizable names in underwater photography; Michael Aw and David Doubilet. Joint hosted by The Ocean Geographic Society for which Michael is founding director and the British Society of Underwater Photographers, the evening of slide shows, q and a's was also joined by the charismatic underwater filmmaker Leandro Blanco. The news of these three big names in the underwater world spread far and wide attracting a plethora of all ages of budding underwater photographers/ videographers/ enthusiasts across the country, squeezing into a packed theatre in Regents Park to pick up some tips on shooting and get their fix of some rare unseen images.

Many people are familiar with David Doubliet's work from his successful coffee table publication simply titled 'Water Light Time' having seductively slipped under our noses back in June 1999. Like most, his mesmerizing collection of evocative images reached out and smacked me in the face with his classy compositions, moody tones and spectacular seascape forms. His photography is perhaps best expressed as:

'looks at a world in which humans are the encumbered intruders'.

and continues to lead the field with his signature split lens style and quirky subject matter. Over twenty-five years of work and a few titles, awards and recognitions to his name later, National Geographic photographer Doubilet had successfully popularised the art form and stamped his identity across the globe where perhaps Jacques Cousteau once reigned supreme.

As Doubilet tore his way through a sideshow presentation of some of his life's key images and some of his more recent work, it was fascinating to hear how, what and why went into forming these prints. You could see how his background for example as a NY film student manifested a formula when creating some of the striking black and white shots of figures underwater. Talking more in depth about certain images and how he shot them, he revealed an interesting use of film making techniques and dark room processing that provides that cinematic effect. It was clear that his whimsical approach to life in the ocean provokes a wider audience than meerly scientific, something perhaps that nobody had really managed to achieve before, or even today to some extent. Doubilet's work is characteristic of a photographer who has a real affinity with his subject.

Michael Aw is another photographer who has probably spent more time in a wetsuit than anybody else. A back catalogue of images equally as impressive as Doubiliet's, his approach strains mainly from striking macro photography compositions and that all rare capture of an organism having spent thousands of man hours underwater in Micronesia, the rich biodiversity of SE Asia's archipelagos and Australasia. Aw's work successfully captures many acts of animal behaviour. His sequence of turtle mating shots, shark feeding frenzies in giant shoals of sardines and Aw (e) inspiring images of Gannets diving into the shallow waters are brilliantly executed. His work undoubtedly reflects a passion for promoting sustainable development of marine environments and he gave the impression of a humble spectator of man's continued disregard for our delicate ecological balance in and around the earth's waters. Too many name here but the list is endless regarding Aw's contributions to global publications that he is also often the founding member. A recent publication that involves Aw, Doubiliet and other key underwater photographers is Ocean Geographic. Perhaps sentiment to the iconic yellow front cover of the National Geographic this bold orange themed design includes photo essays and topical debates.