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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Monday, May 05, 2003
    The sea and how you see it

    Felt queasy this morning (too much wine perhaps, last night). But walked all the way into town, it being a blustery bank holiday. When it came to the decision whether to follow the thousands down to the river for the Battle of the Atlantic commemorations, my queasiness increased.

    Deep unease in my stomach about turning up at the Albert Dock to coo at warships from eight different countries moored out in the Mersey. Something to do with being drawn by the scale and strength of those vessels while having a lingering awareness of their purpose - death and destruction.

    Unable to reconcile all this I did my usual Monday shop in Probe (for new Blur, old Half Man Half Biscuit and cheap Sub Pop compilation) and then found myself unexpectedly back in the realm of the sea, thumbing through the current Reporters Sans Frontieres publication in W.H.Smiths.

    RSF campaign for press freedom worldwide, and fundraise by publishing two glossy magazines each year, each one devoted to the work of a photojournalist. This one features the work of marine photographer Philip Plisson, who has devoted most of his life to studying the sea, the Navy and seafarers. Setting sail from French Brittany's picturesque port of TrinitŽ-sur-Mer, he usually prepares his photographic reports aboard his custom-built cruiser, P�cheur d'Images ("Image Catcher"), or from a helicopter. His work is so consistently excellent that in 1991 the French Minister of Defence, "mindful of the need to preserve the memory of significant historical events", awarded him the illustrious title of "Painter of the French Department of the Navy".

    Plisson captures the seas in all their moods, the people of the seas in all their struggles and conquests, the crafts they use in all their strength or vulnerability, sea creatures in all their beauty. One of the most striking pictures in this collection is of a dolphin playing in the wash just beneath the stern of a massive ocean-going vessel as it powers through the waters. The picture, in its wonder and terror, invites more queasiness in me, with my weak stomach. Plisson sees it this way: "The vessel's stern seems to beam benignly down upon the dolphin's aquatic antics."