Mermaid – A Dream Made Real is an unique and deceptively personal book that, nevertheless, boasts universal appeal. It derives its appeal from the aspirational nature of both its photography and text. One of the overriding, yet never outright stated, themes powering this book is that men and women should embrace their best selves, follow their dreams, and reinvent themselves at will if it satisfies a deep internal calling. Aura Stiers, along with primary photographer and chief collaborator Cyrus Rhodes, have produced a visual feast adorned with glittering lyricism capable of reaching even the most jaded of hearts. The redemptive and affirmative qualities of Mermaid – A Dream Made Real are another antidote for the exhausting and traumatic year, but its appeal will long outlast the pandemic.
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Stiers and Rhodes devote the bulk of the book towards photography. The pictures invariably, either directly or indirectly, embrace an aquatic setting. These are posed photographs but strike a natural note despite their obvious forethought and are staged in state or national parks for the most part. There are scattered exceptions. Another attractive quality of the book is how it is, without ever belaboring the point, a love letter of sorts to the natural glories of Washington state. The rich and colorful composition of the book’s many photographs captures the wonder and beauty of the state’s forests, coastlines, and other enchanting sights without ever lapsing into cliché. Rhodes, in particular, has a keen eye for juxtaposing Stiers’ natural and unforced beauty against this evocative backdrop.
The poetry and prose pieces throughout the book are well selected. Her writing makes it clear she understands how to frame her thoughts in compelling imagery and she uses mermaid mythology in creative ways that connect with the realities of our everyday life. Some of the highlights are the opening formal poem “Mermaid in the Falls”, “She Watches in the Distance”, and the final poem “Phantom of the Waterfall”. These are the peak moments but, make no mistake, many pieces are enormously complementary with the photography and all can stand as successful standalone works.
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Many readers/ and Mer-Folk fans alike will find it striking how the book achieves such an effective balance between intimacy and widespread appeal. Mermaid, despite its collaborative nature, is a very personal statement from Stiers. It bubbles with messages that give her life meaning, yet is continually reaching out towards her readers, inviting them to explore their own vulnerabilities. This brings a inspirational dimension to the book that never flags. Mermaid isn’t lengthy, under two hundred pages, and easily consumed in a single sitting.
Challenging times are overcome many ways. One important tool are affirmative works that push back against the spirits of discontent and despair. Mermaid – A Dream Made Real is an impressively cohesive work from beginning to end and invites further volumes. Aura Stiers and Cyrus Rhodes, along with other assorted participants, are responsible for a book quite unlike anything else available today.