I wrote about my initial impressions of Barbara Bosworth’s book The Sea (2022) a couple of weeks ago, but now I have had time to return to it, and dwell in its 200 pages and sixty images, along with marvelling at the body of work on which it is based.  After further research I find that it is the final book in a series, preceded by The Meadow (2015) and The Heavens (2018) using the same design features and presentation as the previous books.

Bosworth produces large-format images of nature and in this volume about the sea explores the effect it has on light, water, and the skies above.  Running through the three books the theme of how nature shapes us and how in turn we, as humans, shape nature.

Her fascination and love of the sea came from her father, on their annual holidays spent on Cape Cod.  She said of him in her Preface:

“My father’s time at the edge of vastness replenished him for another year of work at the family hardware store.  He was a contemplative nature and weather observer and loved to watch light move across a large body of water.”

And of her work:

“With the wonder that had been handed to me by my father, I learned of generations of writers, poets, and artists also inspired by the sea.  Henry David Thoreau walked the same Cape Cod beaches.  Virginia Woolf, and the poet-scientist Rachel Carson, who walked other shores, now walk alongside me.  The English painter J M W Turner’s atmospheric seascapes caught my eye early on for their vibrant and sensual use of light.” 

The influences on her work, and those that walk alongside her as she works, are remarkably similar to those that have provided me with inspiration, and the will to try again to capture this ever-changing, dynamic and yet peaceful element that surrounds us.  However, Bosworth also refers to the tragedy of the sea, the lives lost, including her cousin’s father.  I have a similar respect for nature in all its guises and while its beauty is compelling, its power can threaten us in a moment.

In terms of the presentation of the book, her images are punctuated by pieces of writing, the Preface written by her, and other pieces by those mentioned as influencers on her work, such as Virginia Woolf and Rachel Carson.  These written inserts are presented on smaller, lighter and cream paper, rather than the heavy white paper used for her images.  The book is divided into four parts of plates along with an extensive series of appendices.

The first time I opened the book I was struck in the first part by the combination of colour and black and white images, often seen by academic advisors as something not to be entertained.  The colour images are dramatic and capture the sometimes brashness of nature’s tones and hues.  As I move through Part II, while again combined, the understated colour images are from a more muted and subtle palette and reflect the calm and isolation of coastal landscapes, while Part III is entirely black and white and Part IV a return to a combination of light and shade in her image choices.

The Appendices are extensive and exhaustive in nature and provide a sense of the absorption of the artist in not only her photographic work but in all things relating to the sea.  It certainly provided me with some inspiration as to how to extend my research and practice beyond the capture of images and writing about them.  That which is included in the Appendices is a cornucopia, of what appears at first, to be a bit random but nonetheless related to the sea.  She has contributions from Jem Southam, alongside information about the Beaufort Scale, instructions on how to use a sextant and terms used that relate to the sea.  Then, we move on to some more personal items including excerpts from her own weather journal, items from her “Cabinet of Curiosities” (a concept taken from the habit of those studying natural history) of collecting items of interest in pursuit of knowledge.   Drawings, sketches, photographs of her sand collection (extending over thirty years) and her notes as to where and when they were collected, her own snapshots of times spent by the sea, an extensive glossary of sea terms, and a very interesting collection of book covers featuring the sea, such as Henry David Thoreau’s Cape Cod (originally published in 1865).  And then finally, some more images of what Bosworth calls that “unknown place”, where water and sky merge, or as she says:

“Elsewhere is a series of images depicting an unknown place, where the lines of heaven and earth blur.”

There is no doubt, that The Sea is a comprehensive study of the sea and is a maximalist approach to photographic practice.  The images are stunning and have provided me with food for thought in terms of how I present my images in the form of an Artist’s book.  I am also convinced that absorbing oneself significantly in the subject, through research of other artists and collecting found items provides for an even more immersive practice.  However, I feel that my approach and the resultant book will provide for a simpler and understated delivery and presentation, leaving the images and a few words to tell my story in nature. And while a few well-chosen items might be included, I would not wish to overwhelm the reader or viewer with too much information.



Bosworth, B. (2018). The Heavens. Sante Fe, New Mexico, Radius Books.

Bosworth, B. (2022). The Sea. Santa Fe, New Mexico, Radius Books.

Bosworth, B. and A. Kelley (2015). The Meadow. Sante Fe, New Mexico, Radius Books.


Alison Price

Alison Price

My name is Alison Price and for the past ten years I have travelled the world photographing wildlife, including Alaska, Antarctica, Borneo, Botswana, the Canadian Arctic, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
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