Hidden Worlds

Robbie SHONE

Kozu, Bath. 2022. 200pp, 177 colour and 22 b&w photographs and illustrations. Hardback, 308mm × 247mm. Standard edn £45

ISBN 978-1-9196176-7-1

Hidden WorldsIF ever you wish to leave a fine book lying around to impress visitors, this is it. Cavers will drool, non-cavers might see the attraction of the underground. And for folk simply interested in the quality attainable in book publishing, look no further. Hidden Worlds by Robbie Shone has it all, from a cloth binding and inset photograph on the cover to thick, satin-finish paper sewn into the spine.

Descent (286) reported on the forthcoming title’s three flavours on offer. The standard edition is the book itself, but in addition a Special Edition came in a slipcase with an original signed A4 print of an entrance in the Nakanaï mountains of Papua New Guinea at the increased price of £95. Then, another step up gained a Collectors’ Edition which replaced the A4 print with one identical to the cover at A3 for £195. At the time of writing in early September, it is notable that the Special Edition (limited to 100 copies) had sold out – as had the Collectors’ Edition of 50 copies. For anyone still looking for an enhanced volume a Print Edition is still available, this with an A3 print but no slipcase for £150.

Robbie has gained an envious reputation for cave photography over the past two decades of travelling around the planet, starting with his early experiments in the Peak District while studying for a fine art degree in Sheffield. Stories of his beginnings and how his images were designed, with accompanying drawings, form the opening pages of Hidden Worlds – his planning for shots looking down Titan is fascinating, with angles of view and distances for flash firing worked out before entering the shaft.

Descent readers will no doubt remember Robbie’s exceptional scenes from the covers of issues (183) and (197), to pick only two; he is no stranger to the magazine, for example in Greenland in issues (273) and (274). The majority of the book is taken up with full-page landscapes and a very occasional double-page spread, interspersed with a few anecdotes of how some were shot or a plan went awry. All good cave photographers should lose a camera (or more) to the rigours of mud, water and tears.

But the images ... The layout, for all its simplicity, is cunningly wrought. Though some facing pages display photos from the same location and year, others are dissimilar pairings but based on tonal range or subject. The effect is subtle but maintains the feel for ‘cave’; darkness with beams or patches of light, the images are not overlit and maintain a mystery for the viewer.

Chris Howes, first published in Descent (288), October 2022

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