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EARTHFORMS by Joel Simpson


Intimate Portraits of Our Planet

by Joel Simpson , photographed by Joel Simpson

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-578-21122-0
Publisher: JSS Books

An impressive collection of geological photographs accompanied by essays by the photographer and environmental activists.

Simpson (Blues—By You, 1997) has collected more than 100 of his images of landforms from around the world. His book, which is dedicated to the “Water Protectors of Standing Rock,” opens with essays from attorney Daniel Sheehan, activist Chase Iron Eyes, British author John Farndon, and photography critic Lyle Rexer as well as Simpson’s own introduction. Sheehan reviews the history and context of the 2016-2017 Dakota Access Pipeline protests while Iron Eyes’ contribution has a more poetic format (“Humanity’s dark legacy is hubris, greed, folly / Yet we all possess an unconquerable spirit even if we do not know it”), and Farndon’s words link art and activism. Simpson explains his approach to art (“I take special delight in exploring closer and smaller-scale formations that offer rich possibilities of compositions untethered to the formal, sky-above-earth/water-below, landscape paradigm”) before presenting his images, which feature titles only; captions providing more information are collected in the final pages. The photos are almost exclusively of the natural environment, although a few humans appear, as in one picture of a Hawaiian beach and another of Sardinia. The images include scenes from California, Quebec, Turkey, Mongolia, New Mexico, and Ireland. Simpson has an eye for naturally occurring patterns and structures, and he presents vivid mineral deposits and eye-catching rock formations. He compares a particularly notable formation to Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream, and it’s hard to deny the resemblance. The captions are informative and will help geological novices understand how the shapes developed. They also offer references to the works of other artists, and their placement in the book’s final pages effectively allows readers to process the images separately. Although the environmentalist message is strong in the opening essays, Simpson’s later commentary emphasizes natural beauty without reiterating the threat that it faces, letting readers draw the connection themselves.

A compelling collection of nature photography that conveys a clear message.