Spill comes as the first book by Daniel Beltrá to be available for public sale. I was in a tiny London bookstore where I came across his book and my exposure being sadly limited as it is, I had no idea who he was or what the book was about.
What attracts you to the book, or should I say what attracted me is the cover. Fabric printed in orange and blue pattern, very similar to what a geographical map would look like, this book definitely stood out of the lot. The title SPILL is spelled out in capitals along with the photographers name and the publishing house, GOST on the side.
For those who don’t know GOST, they have been publishing books with amazing photographers like Salgado, Mark Power and Anastasia Taylor-Lind to name a few.
Coming back to Spill, the hardbound book is large but thin which makes it easy to handle. Inside you’re introduced to the 64 most beautifully printed color images, all full bleed without text or captions. The project documents a birds eye view of the 2010 Gulf oil disaster where 4.9 million barrels of oil leaked into the sea, making it the worst marine oil spill in the history of petroleum industry.
There is no text which describes what the book is about and as you move into the very first pages, you find yourself looking at a unreal landscape, a visual where you don’t really know its its a abstract painting or a photograph. Brilliant orange lines cut through deep a deep blue canvas, or so it might seem. As you flip through, the offshore oil platform comes into view along with a dozen ships oddly enough breaking the dreamlike atmosphere.
Its only then you realise that what looked like the most beautiful sight in those pictures is in fact light reflecting from millions of gallons of oil spill, which would go on to kill thousands of marine animals. Daniel photographs this disaster’s effect in its most poetic melancholy. All photographs he makes are from a helicopter flying above and because we never really see any people or physical damage in the images, they have surprisingly aura of calmness.
Spill was shortlisted as one of the projects in Pix Pictet’s Power Portfolios and this project also won him the Wildlife Photojournalist of the Year for the 2011 Veolia Environment. This book’s strength lies in the visual impact of something larger than life unfolding. Daniel’s approach is of a third person, almost existential, making us question our motives and direction of our actions as a singular entity. His choice of not showing any people in the images and choosing a elevated viewpoint makes you feel detached and yet responsible, as if someone was to show a child what his actions have resulted in.
Spill is a beautiful book and very different from the kind of books I usually buy. And I’m happy that its different and unique in its own way. If you do decide to get it, its sure to add value to your collection.