Picture researching The Earth.
Picture research by its very nature takes you on many extraordinary journeys and the research we undertook to illustrate The Earth, An Intimate History was no exception. This is a remarkable book that explores our planet geologically, historically and culturally. The pictures had to match the breadth of the subject matter.
You have to adjust your mind to the vastness of geological time as Richard Fortey’s narrative explains why continental plates shift and vast mountain ranges exist. He plunges us into the icy depths of dark oceans to grub around amongst the ancient debris, the secrets of the sea floor.
And he invites us to climb high, as the Victorian smart set once did, to peer into an active volcano…
To do visual justice to this text a wide array of images had to be found. I was amazed when I first saw the work of Bernard Edmaier, who is not only a fantastic photographer but a geologist too – top that! His powerful images were just perfect for this project and they were used throughout the book and to best effect as full-page chapter frontispieces.
I was lucky to be able to work closely with the author, who, along with his wife Jackie were generous with both their time and their address book. This gave access to some of the more obscure scientific research sources.
Professor Deborah Kelley of the Oceanography Department of the University of Seattle duly provided her arresting underwater photograph of a carbonated pinnacle, forming a hydrothermal vent, which is poetically entitled Lost City.
Primary sources worldwide were trawled to find diverse and vital pictures such as the resplendent chieftain’s feather cape from Honolulu Academy of Arts. At Scripps Institution of Oceanography I found a truly amazing scanning electron micrograph of fossilised remains of radiolarian skeletons from the late Miocene age, which was taken at a mere 656 feet underwater and at a mind blowing x600 magnification.
Historical and cultural sources abound including Athanasius Kircher’s stunning seventeenth-century cross section of the earth as he understood it to be.
Included are some revealing portraits of the scientists who fought and argued and painstakingly pieced together the fragments of geological evidence to give us the foundations of our geological understanding today. From the files of the Swiss Federal Institute’s archive ETH – Bibliotek we plucked the most sublime portrait of Albert Heim. It shows him almost embedded in folding rock face, holding tight his tiny geological hammer in one hand.
Next time the earth moves for you it is thanks to him and his ilk that you know why.