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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
The catalogue for a traveling exhibition of the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Virginia, this fascinating book features 100 historical photos depicting the complex, often deeply passionate relationships of mariners with their vessels and the sea. Each photo chronicles a fragment of the mariner's experience over the past 200 years—shipbuilding, the making of a wooden skiff, commercial fishing and whaling, amateur sailing, deep-sea diving, naval encounters, and much more.
At once beautiful, informative, and affecting, each of the 100 black-and-white photographs in A Maritime Album, with their exquisite textures and pearly light effects, chronicles a fragment of man's relationship with the sea. Selected and sequenced by eminent photographic historian John Szarkowski from an archive of more than 600,000 maritime images, the photographs in A Maritime Album capture an era in which photography came of age and steam power transformed both transportation and Western culture.
The resulting book is not so much a history of technology as an extraordinary tribute to the triumphs and the perils of life at sea over the past 200 years.
The eclectic mix of photographs in "A Maritime Album" reflects the entire seafaring spectrum: The sights and sounds of shipbuilding, sailing, fishing and whaling, deep-sea diving, and naval encounters are depicted in all their gritty glory. Some are the deliberate work of famous photographers, while for others the photographer was simply a chronicler with a camera and a remarkable eye for composition and visual impact. Applying electronic andother techniques that he created, master technician and photographer Richard Benson directed the sophisticated electronic reproduction of the pictures. He also wrote an evocative essay to accompany each one. These intriguing, highly personal essays provoke us to consider the deeper societal meaning of the people, events, and objects portrayed in these images. The inspired juxtaposition of Szarkowski's well-chosen images with Benson's thought-provoking vignettes of time and place has resulted in a riveting testimonial to the maritime experience.
Particularly affecting in "A Maritime Album," are the snapshots of people at work (boatbuilders, arms-bearing soldiers, seafaring mariners), including an endearing shot of a father passing down the process of boatbuilding to his son, who takes a short break to beam at the photographer. Equally compelling for its historical significance is the extraordinary photograph "USS West Virginia at Pearl Harbor." The water in Pearl Harbor was literally on fire on December 7, 1941, and this extraordinary photograph shows exactly that: The oil from the ship's bunkers has spread over the surface and burns fiercely.
Connoisseurs, sailors, historians, lovers of the sea, and photography enthusiasts will savor each beautiful photograph in "A Maritime Album," and will marvel at its wealth of ship lore.—Janine Liebert