Meet author France Porcher. H er words, and artistic photography of wildlife will move you.
In 100 words, what is your book about?
My book describes the shark-human relationships which develop between me and the reef sharks in a lagoon near Tahiti over a period of several years. First I take the reader to discover their exotic environment, then into ever more intimate contact with the sharks.
With time and many startling experiences comes the realization that sharks can think. This first scientific evidence of its kind is presented by shark ethologist Professor Arthur A. Myrberg Jr. at an international symposium on cognition. By the time the BBC comes to film my work for Discovery Channel’s Shark Week 2004, the sharks are being massacred for the shark fin soup market, and I am caught up in a desperate battle to save their lives. The documentary becomes my only hope to get their story out to the world.
What inspired your current book?
As a Canadian wild-life artist I had spent years observing a wide variety of species of wild animals, but sharks were very different. They came instead of rushing away, and were so interesting that the became central to my life. When the massacre began and dive clubs found their finless bodies on the seafloor at dive sites, I reeled. So I wrote down their story, hoping that animal and nature lovers who hadn’t thought much about sharks until then would read it and learn what these unusual animals are like, then join me in trying to save them. As the scientific importance of my findings about their intelligence and social lives became public, I rewrote the book to include the human framework and added a chapter on cognition (thinking) of different sorts, using examples from many other species of wild animals I had observed, to put the sharks’ actions in perspective. All my scientific findings are included in the book.
It seemed important to picture the sharks and other characters as I knew them, so I illustrated it using a technique especially developed for painting sharks in black and white–with lots of water, ink and bleach. The illustrations are writer-to-reader messages, loosely and spontaneously painted with humour and love.
Since Arthur Myrberg died before our paper on cognition (thinking) in sharks could be published, I included it in the book in the appendix. It seemed important that it be known that this highly respected American fish and shark ethologist declared at the end of his life that sharks are capable of cognition. So the book includes this great scientist’s final scientific paper.
Do you plan to write another book?
Yes, I have most of a second book written. It continues the theme of thinking and the subjective states expressed by wild animals, and the title is “The Sacred Mountain.”
Who is your favorite author?
Did your favorite author influence your writing style?
No, I don’t think so. My writing style came from deep in my heart, the subject matter having such profound meaning for me.