We all had a fish once. A beta, perhaps, that sat in a bowl on our dresser, or in a tank whose comforting whirr lulled us to sleep at night. We loved their fluid grace and their brilliant colors, their self-contained lives always accessible for our voyeuristic pleasure. But one day the beta floated limply to the surface, or the guppy got stuck in the water filter, and we called the whole experiment off. We didn’t want to cope with the all too frequent deaths of our tiniest aquatic friends—life was already too complicated.
But we still love fish! And though your dubiously constructed Ikea bookshelf probably can’t accommodate too many fish-based books, if there’s room for just one, it must be Claire Nouvian’s The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss.
Words and pixels can’t convey the kind of pleasure this oversized, lavish book of otherworldly bottom-dwellers offers. All of the plant and aquatic life in for The Deep is thrillingly rare, and some of these inhabitants of Earth’s deepest crannies have never been photographed before. While the copy might best be left to the budding marine biologists amongst us, the real draw here are photographs of such wonders as the Scaly Dragonfish and the vampiric Spookfish, each exploding in vivid color against a pure black backdrop, rendered with such clarity that you’d think the photographs were made in a state-of-the-art studio, not under crushing pressure at the bottom of the sea.
The Deep was published to seemingly universal acclaim in 2007, with reviewers comparing its images to the stuff of nightmares, Hollywood special effects studios, or high-end galleries. The hype may have died down, but these incredible aquatic specimens are still ready to be discovered—and unless you have easy access to a bathysphere, The Deep is your best chance to experience them.