Perhaps man's enduring fascination with the sea is a reflection of the simple fact that we are a land-based mammal occupying a planet that, as any schoolboy will tell you, is 70% water (the Pacific ocean alone covers half the globe). Or perhaps there remains, buried deep in our collective DNA, a vestigial yearning to return to the place from which all life emerged some 400 million years ago. Either way, the sea and man's interaction with it is a never-ending source of photographic inspiration. And if photography is, in essence, a means of exploring the world and our role in it, then the sea is a good place to start.
The coast, in particular, has always been a rich source of material for those photographers who are really just social anthropologists in disguise. The beach signifies freedom, relaxation and leisure and we are drawn irresistibly towards it. To gaze meditatively at the waves from the security of terra firma is a comforting and restful experience. But to venture far into the mysterious ocean depths is a more frightening prospect altogether. The sheer scale of the ocean intimidates (looking down at the open water during a trans-atlantic flight is a sure way to feel small and insignificant) and its awesome, uncontrollable power, when unleashed, will chew you up and spit you out - as any sailor can testify.
Yet as the planet's richest and most abundant source of food, the sea has always provided sustenance. But perhaps not for much longer. The rapid depletion of global fish stocks due to rampant overfishing has put us on the verge of a huge environmental disaster which threatens to upset the world's fragile marine ecosystem with potentially catastrophic consequences. The oceans have become both a political battleground for complacent governments, faceless corporations, environmental lobby groups and communities depending largely on fishing for their livelihood, and a vast ecological litmus paper, a predictor of man’s future on the blue planet. We should all be paying close attention to what is happening there.
Editorial by Ben Smith
Editorial picture by Rafal Milach