Book review: Supercell by Kevin Erskine


Image from Amazon.

Suppose you only ever photographed one subject in your life – hell, you’re not even a photographer by training or trade – what would your images look like? Supercell is the answer. Kevin Erskine is a farmer living in the American midwest, who also happens to be a storm enthusiast (storm chaser? I have no idea what these types of people are called).

What’s unique about this book is that Erskine photographs nothing but clouds and storms – he might well be great at portraits too, but it seems unlikely judging from the text. I must admit that a huge part of the appeal of this book for me stems from the subject – granted, the images are technically competent and nicely printed, but I want to look at the clouds, not the photograph. It’s one of those collections whose images speak for themselves – it’s rare, but you can actually look through the image, through the ink, through the page, through the book, and into the scene itself – nothing more, and nothing less.


Image from Amazon

And you know what, I really, really like it. To be honest, this book isn’t for everybody. Many viewers will find it extremely boring; page after page after page of nothing but clouds, tornadoes, rain, and myriad other forms of atmospheric precipitation. But to a huge Magritte fan like myself, who lives in the tropics and sees nothing but perhaps two or three common varieties of cumulus (and if you’re lucky, the occasional cirrocumulus) – it’s like looking at pornography. I can only imagine how much more interesting my cityscapes would be against a backdrop of enormous dramatic clouds; the interplay of light and shadow off the glass facades of modern architecture. Alas, Erskine’s problem is perhaps the opposite of mine: he has no end of clouds to play with, but nary any more construction than a grain silo or barn – the equivalent to our local clouds.


Image from Amazon

Almost all of the images in the book were shot with a wide angle, large-format camera; there really is no other way to capture the scale and majesty of the formations otherwise. I’m curious though, with such a slow method of working, how on earth does he get out of the way of the weather in time? It must be a pretty near thing in some of the images.


Image from Amazon

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to live in the great empty plains, or wanted to, then this is the book for you. It’s as much about the infinite fractal variety in nature as it is about the powerful beauty of clouds. And if you don’t like clouds, or prefer to live in the city, then it would at least make a great present for your meteorologist. MT

Comments

  1. BTW Ming,

    Did you know Kevin Erskine in fact does not exist…..it’s an alter ego of the Dutch photographer Erik Hijweege?

    http://6thfloor.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/13/erik-hijweege-a-k-a-kevin-erskine-the-storm-chasing-photographer/

    I made some 360 VR shots of one of his photo’s last year (in order to document a landscape/art exhibition in Venlo, The Netherlands so I checked out the guy……Erik makes other work, Kevin does not….

    Greets, Ed.

    • That’s news to me…I guess he isn’t a farmer, then. Or the real Erskine has been upstaged. You can rest assured I’m not anybody’s alter ego…or am I? ;)

  2. I understand. The vast majority of my photographs are of sunsets right off my lanai. Infinite varieties of light, clouds and colors never get tired to my eyes. I simply can’t help myself from trying to capture the daily light show.

  3. Matt from Missouri says:

    Having lived in the American Midwest all my life, basically right at Tornado Alley’s mailbox, I’ve just about seen it all. You absolutely nail the predicament we rural Midwesterner photo enthusiasts are in — we tend to have little variety of man-made constructions with which to compliment the skyscapes.

    One virtue of living on the plains is that incoming weather fronts can be seen from a great distance. And what else are you going to look at? Tornadoes, however, can be difficult to predict and are liable to descend on you faster than you can prepare for them. In any case, this Erskine fellow surely seems to know what he’s doing. Thanks for the recommendation.

    • It’s a great book – as a cloud lover, it’s right up my alley. I wish I have the opportunity to shoot some weather like that…then again, maybe not. :P

  4. I like clouds,
    hundreds of pictures taken from my window during the year.

  5. I purchased the last book you reviewed & love it! Thanks so much for posting this series of book reviews!

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