Paul Flandinette wrote Secret Seas - a beautiful book which not only has gorgeous pictures but is awash with information on Oman, its seas and underwater life. We talk to Paul about his book and life in Oman.
1. What prompted you to produce the book?
I've been diving for many years and doing underwater photography for about 20 years. I have many underwater photography coffee table books and have long been enthralled by the photographers' art. I've wanted to produce a professional quality underwater photographic book for as long as I can remember, although I didn't think it was a realistic ambition. But that changed in 2014 when I received my first underwater photography commission from Oman's Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth (as it was then known). Spread over six months this project gave me a detailed insight into the beauty and biodiversity of Oman's underwater world. It didn't take me long to learn there was no photographic book on Oman's underwater world. It's rare to find any project that's never been done before so, always up for a challenge, I began this journey which was to last over 7 years.
2. In the seven years it took to complete, was there any time when you thought it might never happen?
After investing so much time and energy in the photography and several years of knocking on a lot of doors looking for a sponsor there were quite a few times when it would have been easier to give up. There were several occasions when I thought I'd clinched it, but finding support for a book, especially in difficult economic times, was quite a challenge. It wasn't until late 2020 when the OMRAN Group agreed to sponsor the publication of Secret Seas that I realised it was going to become a reality.
3. What is the main thing that you hope your book will achieve?
Oman really isn't on most divers' radars even though it is within easier reach for European travellers than most Indo-Pacific dive locations (current Covid travel restrictions notwithstanding!). For my co-author Michel and me it's not just about creating a beautiful and informative book. We hope that being part of the effort to promote Oman's underwater world Secret Seas will help increase awareness of the need to conserve and protect this very special marine environment.
4. You called your book "Secret Seas" - why did you decide on that title?
Oman has long been something of a mysterious country. It is the Arab world's oldest independent state and has a proud history going back over 5,000 years. Yet, few people have heard about this fascinating nation. Its seas are unique and hold more than their fair share of surprises. Nowhere else in the world will you find temperate species such as seaweeds and kelps living alongside tropical species. This seasonal occurrence in the Arabian Sea is brought on by the southwest monsoon which is one of the world's most powerful weather systems. Oman is one of the world's most important sanctuaries for Green turtle nesting; in fact 4 of the 7 species of sea turtles nest in Oman. Whale sharks are regular seasonal visitors and 20 species of cetaceans are known to reside or visit. On top of that there are over 1,600 species of fish, nearly 200 species of corals and new marine species are still being discovered. Mysteries run deep here and our book reveals the secrets of Oman's amazing marine bio-diversity.
5. What do you like to do when you are not working or diving?
Watch movies and create digital art of marine subjects.
Paul Flandinette is an award-winning film maker, professional underwater photographer, author and artist. He is passionate about the underwater world and has dived extensively in the in the Far East, Red Sea, Caribbean and the UK. He has been living in Oman since 2013 and has spent the last seven years photographing Oman's underwater world.. Interview by Jill Studholme