Spineless Portraits of Marine Invertebrates, the Backbone of Life


Portraits of Marine Invertebrates, the Backbone of Life


Price: $50.00

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  • Publication Date: October 21, 2014
  • Imprint: Abrams Books
  • Trim Size: 10 x 12
  • ISBN: 9781419710070
  • Page Count: 256
  • Illustrations: 200 full-color illustrations
  • Rights: World/All

In Spineless, acclaimed photographer Susan Middleton explores the mysterious and surprising world of marine invertebrates, which represent more than 98 percent of the known animal species in the ocean. They are also astonishingly diverse in their shapes, patterns, textures, and colors—in nature’s fashion show, they are the haute couture of marine life.
This collection of more than 250 remarkable images is the result of seven years of painstaking fieldwork across the Pacific Ocean, using photographic techniques that Middleton developed to capture these extremely fragile creatures on camera. She also provides short essays that examine the place these invertebrates occupy on the tree of life, their vast array of forms, and their lives in the ocean. Scientist Bernadette Holthuis contributes profiles describing each species, many of them for the first time. Middleton’s book is a stunning new view of nature that harmoniously combines art and science.


A gorgeous, light-drenched book that treats the senses. In one exquisitely-crafted portrait after another, accompanied by stirring prose, Middleton reminds us that we share the planet with equally fascinating neighbors, some of whom just happen to live beneath the waves.
Diane Ackerman, Author of The Human Age
“Susan Middleton, whose brilliant photography of wildlife is unexcelled, has brought to life and intimacy the small creatures who make up the foundation of animal life in marine waters.”
Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University
“This is a wonderful tribute to the astonishingly diverse, beautiful, and urgently important creatures who truly rule the world.”
Sylvia A. Earle, Explorer in Residence at National Geographic, Founder of Mission Blue
“Gorgeous portraits.”
“The marine invertebrates in her photographs are such beautiful, ethereal, otherworldly creatures, they almost appear to float atop the pages.”
Entertainment Weekly
“Ravishing . . . rekindles a certain sense of wonder from childhood.”
New York Times
“Each image is rendered in exquisite detail. . . . As pure art it is a celebration for the eyes. As a tribute to nature’s inventiveness, it is an inspiration for the soul.”
Natural History Magazine
“Nothing short of spectacular.”
“Middleton is a gifted photographer.”
Seattle Times
“There is nothing in this book that does not inspire awe and delight. Dive in!”
Wall Street Journal

About the author

Susan Middleton is an acclaimed photographer, author, and lecturer specializing in the portraiture of rare and endangered animals, plants, sites, and cultures. For thirteen years she was the chair of the Department of Photography at the California Academy of Sciences, where she now serves as research associate. Her most recent book is Evidence of Evolution (Abrams 2009). Previous books in collaboration with David Liittschwager include Archipelago, Remains of a Rainbow (National Geographic), Witness, and Here Today (Chronicle Books). Her photographs have been exhibited worldwide in fine art and natural history contexts, and are represented in the permanent collections of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Gallery of Art. She was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in 2009. She lives in San Francisco.