In his new book, celebrity photographer Michael Muller trades Hollywood for the even more elusive world of sharks.
Photographer Michael Muller was on assignment in the Galápagos for two weeks when it dawned on him that his three young daughters back in Los Angeles might never have a chance to experience the animals he was photographing. That realization set the wheels in motion for his latest project, Sharks: Face-to-Face with the Ocean’s Endangered Predator (Taschen, $70), a decade-long endeavor that documents the lensman and passionate surfer’s longtime fascination with the creatures of the deep.
“I hope it changes people’s perceptions about sharks and encourages them to join the fight to stop the killing of 100 million sharks every year,” says Muller, who’s also built a reputation as one of Hollywood’s go-to portrait photographers. Armed with his camera and a patented, NASA-engineered, plexi-encased strobe-lighting rig, he captures his underwater subjects without the protection of a cage. “People don’t really need one, except with great whites,” explains Muller, who quickly got over his initial fear of swimming amid the animals. “Over the years I have had a number of 15-plus-foot great whites take an interest in me in my yellow suit looking like one big yellowfin tuna!”
Muller’s cinematic snapshots, which also include the first known photo of a great white breaching at night, have taken him all over the world, from the Bahamas to South Africa, and everywhere in between. But the one place Muller didn’t dive in was the depths of his own backyard: “We are not allowed to ‘chum’ off California and that is really the only way to get a shark to take interest and come close enough to you,” he says. “But they are out there.” An avid conservationist who works with the likes of WildAid and EarthEcho, Muller also incorporates essays from Philippe Cousteau, Jr. and marine biologist Alison Kock in his tome to draw attention to the decline of the species worldwide in response to Asia’s increasing appetite for shark-fin soup.
As for the similarities between shooting A-listers and the big fish? “Celebrities and sharks all have different personalities,” says Muller. “I am much more in awe of sharks.”
Written by LESLEY McKENZIE.
PHOTOS: Images by ©Michael Muller / CPi Syndication