Fish hate to have their picture taken. They dislike it even more than cats, birds, wild orang-utans or two-year-olds - a fish portraitist is an underwater oxymoron. It is virtually impossible to be a Karsh of the coral reef. Exquisite photographic moments in the sea are even more rare than those on land, and time underwater is constantly constrained by physics and physiology.
For humans, fish appear as alien creatures living in a weightless twilight world. For fish, human divers appear to be not just aliens but true monsters with giant blank, masked eyes and Medusa-like pipes sprouting from their heads, making violent bubbling noises.
When we do meet it is fleeting, but at times we are face to face, and I am looking into extraordinary turret eyes that see 180 degrees on each side of the fish's face. Then there are small moments when suddenly there seems to be an expression.
Fish are caricatures of humans - floating cartoons. Groupers look like everybody's Uncle Max and should be smoking cigars. Parrot fish, with their protruding teeth, all seem to be named Lou. The Red velvet fish from Tasmania has a swept back dorsal fin that resembles a pompadour, giving it an Elvis-like look. The Elephant fish looks like Eleanor Roosevelt or Margaret Thatcher.
There are crustaceans and turtles in this book as well as fish. I have included them because they share the same wonderful weightless expressions that fish have. And the variety is endless - from the nightmare-like faces of the Stargazer, to endearing faces like that of the Harlequin tusk fish with its tiny, bright blue, tusk-like teeth.
Most fish pictures show fish swimming away into the blue, but for a moment, in this book, they look at us.
By David Doubilet.
Engelstalig, kleuren foto's.