Brain Pickings Icon
Brain Pickings

Akule: Magnificent Black-and-White Underwater Photographs

What underwater tornadoes have to do with marine sustainability and Captain Cook’s death.

For the past 30 years, photographer Wayne Levin has been capturing the magnificence of the underwater world in spellbinding black-and-white images with equal parts mystery and awe. One day, as he was swimming to photograph the spinner dolphins of Hawaii’s Kealakekua Bay, infamous as the location of Captain Cook’s death, Levin came across what appeared to be a giant coral reef. But, as he approached it, the “reef” began to move and morph, turning out to be an enormous school of bigeyed scad fish. Levin snapped some photos and scurried to find the dolphins, but the experience stuck with him. Over time, he developed a fascination with the strange beauty and synchronicity of these fish schools and spent the next 10 years capturing them on hundreds of rolls of film.

His new book, Akule, offers a selection of his finest photographs, named after the Hawaiian word for bigeyed scads. Haunting and poetic, Levin’s work is particularly fascinating — if not melancholic — when examined in parallel with the Census of Marine Life and our efforts to reverse the damage we’ve inflicted on this whimsical microcosm.

Surrounded by Akule
Image courtesy of Wayne Levin
Puffer fish with Akule
Image courtesy of Wayne Levin
Two Amber Jacks Under Akule
Image courtesy of Wayne Levin
School of Akule by Mooring
Image courtesy of Wayne Levin

Most underwater photographers are divers first, then they get into photography to capture the beautiful scenes they see underwater. I was a photographer first. My first serious underwater photography was when I finished graduate school at Pratt in 1983. I returned to Hawaii to teach photography at University of Hawaii, and decided to photograph surfers from underwater. My first attempts were in color, but the results were very murky blue on blue. Then I switched to black and white, and everything came alive.” ~ Wayne Levin

Line of Akule
Image courtesy of Wayne Levin
Akule Tornado
Image courtesy of Wayne Levin
Rainbow Runners with Akule
Image courtesy of Wayne Levin
Great Barracuda Surrounded by Akule
Image courtesy of Wayne Levin
Akule Pinwheel
Image courtesy of Wayne Levin

I feel a sense of freedom, and I can feel myself relax, and my bodily functions slow down as I leave the anxieties of the human world behind. But the ocean has its own dangers. … So there is a freedom in being underwater, but also a responsibility to always be aware of your surroundings, and yourself.” ~ Wayne Levin

Akule is the follow-up to Wayne’s 1997 debut book, Through a Liquid Mirror, a play on the title of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass to convey the magic and wonderment Wayne finds once he passes through the surface, just like Alice passes through the mirror into Wonderland. For more, NPR has an excellent interview with Levin.


Published July 25, 2011

https://www.brainpickings.org/2011/07/25/wayne-levin-akule/

BP

www.brainpickings.org

BP

PRINT ARTICLE

Filed Under

View Full Site

Brain Pickings participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn commissions by linking to Amazon. In more human terms, this means that whenever you buy a book on Amazon from a link on here, I get a small percentage of its price. That helps support Brain Pickings by offsetting a fraction of what it takes to maintain the site, and is very much appreciated