Shark! Michael Muller Michael Muller was ten when his father bought him a Minolta Weathermatic, a gaudy, yellow hunk of plastic that was state of the art in underwater photography at the time. His imagination quickly outpaced his access to subjects, and among the first photos he took was a snapshot of an image of a shark from the pages of National Geographic. He told his awed classmates he’d shot the photo himself. The ruse didn’t last long, and he soon admitted that he had not. “That was the first time that I really saw the power of photography,”. In the decades since, Muller has built a career as one of the foremost wielders of that power, a top-shelf editorial and advertising photographer and Hollywood’s go-to lensman for ubiquitous movie posters and celebrity portraits. But it is sharks we are here to discuss, a subject Muller has come back to with his forthcoming book Sharks: Face to Face With the Ocean’s Endangered Predator, from Taschen. The culmination of a decade-long obsession with these apex predators, it contains hundreds of photos, shot in a beautiful, haunting style that takes its cues from Muller’s studio work rather than National Geographic. It’s also a project with a higher purpose: to change people’s perceptions of sharks and draw attention to their plight—an estimated one hundred million sharks are killed each year, primarily to supply the demand for their fins and other body parts. Getting and holding a viewer’s attention, Muller was convinced he could use his artistry to make people take a second look at an animal they already think they know. “It was like, what can I do?” Muller says. “I can use my skills to change people’s perceptions and to raise awareness about the number of sharks being killed.” “You can’t bring the shark to the studio, so I thought, ‘We’ll bring the studio to the sharks.’” He had been researching underwater lighting for a Speedo campaign he was shooting, and was taken with the idea of using studio-style lighting underwater to illuminate the animals. But the main commercially available lights were 400-watt strobes, which were insufficient for the task of lighting what he calls a 15-foot-long “SUV with teeth.” So he began trying to figure out how to bring more powerful 1,200-watt strobes underwater.
The resulting book unites Muller’s shockingly original images of sharks with essays from conservationist Philippe Cousteau Jr. and marine biologist Dr. Alison Kock, as well as pages of species notes, shark-related statistics, and lists of resources for further information and shark conservation organizations for readers to support. There are also some incredibly disturbing shots of the blood-soaked “finning” of captured sharks, which Muller shot in the Persian Gulf. Muller Photo.com p .
photo courtesy of MICHAEL MULLER
He became more comfortable swimming with the animals, mostly without a cage or metal suit. The project grew in scope from great whites to all sharks as Muller began thinking more about a book that would unite his images with a strong conservation message. He began bringing celebrity friends like Ben Stiller on shark dives to draw attention to the plight of the animals, and eventually he found the perfect partner for the project in Taschen.
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