Beneath Cold Seas by New York based David Hall is a rare piece of art. Or rather, it is full of them. After nearly two decades in this line of work, I have long since lost count of how many underwater images that have passed my lightbox, or screen, or how many books with underwater photography I have seen. In other words, it takes a lot to impress yours truly, but this book did. I had to browse through it three times in a row, right there on the expo floor when I was first handed a copy for review.
I hesitate not to say that David Hall is in a class of his own, and why is that? Leafing through his book, some images reminded me of the work of Vincent van Gogh, others of some of the great impressionists. Some of these images felt like paintings on canvas, not just photographs. Like no other photographer I am aware of, Hall has consistently managed to capture patterns, textures and colors and used all of these skillfully in compositions in such a tight and controlled manner, as if they were created on an easel.
Yet, these images are all naturalistic photos, which document how life below the surface can also look. The macro shots play with strong colors and patterns, while many of the over-and-under water shots have a surreal and almost dreamlike quality to them, as if we were standing before a portal to another universe.
The image taken at dusk where the weird hooded nudibranchs are seen populating the illuminated kelp under the surface could have been an opening scene from an episode of X-Files. Others paint the archipelago in soft and romantic tones as would a Victorian painter depict the English countryside. I could go on, but I’d better let the samples depicted here do the rest of the telling.
There are many more great images from whence they came. If you’d like to see more, you have to get this stunning book. Not only is the book just a pleasure to go through, but the images are also an inspiration and a challenge for all other underwater photographers to go out and do better. I certainly will. David Hall is an inspirational master who clearly hasn’t yet gotten all the recognition that he deserves.