Reviewed by Michael Lawrence
Generally speaking, underwater photography falls into several well-defined categories. Wide-angle reef scenics with or without divers, over-under images, fish portraits, macro and super macro. With his new book, Song of Silence, Rico Besserdich shatters that construct. While skilled in all of the standard approaches to underwater imaging, Rico has chosen to focus on the essential, elemental spirit of water and its boundless faces.
When was the last time you looked at water? No, not the surface, not the waves, not the way it laps at a shoreline, runs through a valley or flows over the edge of a cliff. When was the last time you looked into its beating heart? Rico has.
His images bring out the spirit, shape and form of water in the most unexpected manner. They evoke the beauty of a snowflake in the midst of formation, both geometric and flexible. Every droplet, each splash, all are individual entities, distinct yet fleeting moments never to be repeated. Some of these images were created in the wild while others were found flowing from his faucet, dripping from roofs or … well, wherever water may be found. In his search for the moment, Rico is most certainly less than judgmental, all wet volunteer are gladly welcomed into the family of images.
Song of Silence is not just your standard photo volume with pretty pictures showing the form and beauty of water, far from it. Nearly every image is accompanied by notes from individuals from around the planet. In these pages, Nobel Peace Prize winners rub shoulders with farmers and schoolchildren. These citizens of Planet Earth range from the humblest to the most exalted. The commonality? Water.
Water is one of the single threads uniting every form of life. It seems that citizens of our planet have much to say. Some are focused on conservation, some express awe at its beauty while others express concern over the fragility and precarious position we face premised upon our access to clean, viable drinking water.
My favorite quote, the most innocent and by far the most succinct comment, comes from seven-year old Sezin in the UK. When asked her impression, she replied, ‘It was wet!’. Contrast that with the statement of farmer Mary Wayua Mwanzia of Kitui, Kenya who has to walk hours each day to acquire water. ‘I wish I had a donkey to help me out.’
The written contributions peppered throughout the book come from individuals with an extraordinary variety of backgrounds. Artists and scientists, religious leaders, politicians and philosophers, children and mothers. All acknowledge water as the central element of their lives, of our lives, all speak of it with great respect.
Song of Silence has no political agenda. It is simply a presentation of our world of water from small rivulets to broad streams, rivers, lakes and oceans. It portrays its current reality and its potential future along with an accurate representation of the ineffable beauty of this liquid. It is one of the most honest books I have ever found. The groundbreaking photography is nothing short of superb. The messages contained within it are no less than insightful. A beautiful piece of work, highly recommended.