You’ve never seen a landscape book quite like this

Interview with Joel Simpson

What the critics say…

“Simpson has an eye for naturally occurring patterns and structures, and he presents vivid mineral deposits and eye-catching rock formations. He compares a particularly notable formation to Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream, and it’s hard to deny the resemblance. The captions are informative and will help geological novices understand how the shapes developed. They also offer references to the works of other artists, and their placement in the book’s final pages effectively allows readers to process the images separately. Although the environmentalist message is strong in the opening essays, Simpson’s later commentary emphasizes natural beauty without reiterating the threat that it faces, letting readers draw the connection themselves.”


“Simpson flirts with chaos repeatedly, complicating the easy sensual analogies and undercutting the all-too-familiar ‘surprises’ of high-end nature photography.”

—LYLE REXER, author; critic, curator; columnist for PHOTOGRAPH magazine.

“Earthforms: Intimate Portraits of Our Planet is an outstanding and beautiful compendium of landscape photography that borders on fine art. A visual joy to browse through page by page, this superbly crafted and assembled volume of geological photography by Joel Simpson is a very highly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Contemporary Photography collections and the supplemental curriculum lists of student geologists. Of special note is the inclusion of Geological Time Scale end papers and informative essays by Danny Sheehan, Lyle Rexer, Chase Iron Eyes, and John Farndon.”


[T]he pictures in this book are breathtaking. The majority of them are digitally captured or captured by film, yet they appear as if they are otherworldly. Photographs of glaciers, lakes, salt fractures, and of course many rock formations are included for our enjoyment. The locations of these formations range all across the world: in the U.S. they are in California, New Mexico, Arizona, Idaho, Massachusetts, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, North and South Dakota, and Hawaii; elsewhere in the world we travel to Ireland, Turkey, Canada, Mongolia, Wales, Jordan, Spain, Madagascar, Sardinia, Italy, Vietnam, and Iceland….Flipping through the pages, the pictures took me somewhere else, and I longed to be by those formations soaking up their beauty. There is something for everyone in this book, open up its pages and be taken away.

—Rachel Dehning for READER VIEWS (online).

More than Landscapes…

Why “geological” photography? Aren’t the photos of rocks in geology books mostly pretty boring?

I’m glad you asked! This is not a geology text. I intended it as an art book primarily to give pleasure, to surprise you and delight you, and secondarily to show you the crust of the Earth up close, while supporting the valiant Water Protectors of Standing Rock, who represent all of us who are deeply concerned to protect our dangerously stressed-out planet.

The geological focus of EARTHFORMS means that it includes and then looks beyond standard images of breathtaking landscapes, like inspiring mountain views, reflecting lakes, waterfalls, seascapes, canyons and forests. Its geological photography also includes caves with rare needle-like “frostwork”; tufa towers at dawn, noon, and after sundown; sensuous closeups of columnar basalt , fields of littoral granite, misty travertine limestone, bizarre bubbling mudpots caught at 1/3000th second, slot canyons at night, and stately, towering volcanic plugs. If you immerse yourself in these images, you risk becoming more attuned to form in the world around you, things you might have once passed over, like the “faces” in rock walls, the “angry” dried mud of desert playas, the “nipples” and “open wounds” of lava, the “smiles” of cross-bedded sandstone, and the stone latticework of seaside tafoni—that you can also find in deserts once covered by seas.

I have high standards of beauty, but not necessarily of the “pretty” kind. Rather I look for the kind that Surrealism’s founder André Breton called “convulsive,” that is, beauty that can change the way you see things and maybe change your life.

So come, have a look at the samples…

—Joel Simpson

Photography by Joel Simpson

About Joel Simpson

Joel Simpson has been photographing since he was a teenager in the 1960s, turning pro in 2002. In between he earned a PhD in comparative literature from Brown University in 1976, had a 22-year career in jazz piano, culminating in an original recording and an encyclopedic CD-ROM on the history of jazz piano, Dick Hyman’s Century of Jazz Piano, in 1999, plus 10 years teaching English, French, Italian and jazz performance and history at the college level.


Since  2002 he has had over 50 shows and publications in the US and abroad, including Paris, Barcelona, and Rome. His work has been published in Camera Arts (Fort Collins, CO), View Magazine (Brussells), The World’s Greatest Erotic Art of Today, volume II (ES Publishing, Miami, FL, 2008), Silvershotz (2011 Folio and December 2011 issue)  Idée Fixe, and Focus Exposures 1 (by subscription on-line). He has received numerous awards, including a number of Black-and-White Spider awards (UK). His 2019 book, Earthforms: Intimate Portraits of Our Planet, has received enthusiastic reviews plus the prestigious 2019 Nautilus Gold Award for Art and Photography, and he was named 10th Best Landscape Photographer (along with 16 other artists) of 2019 by One Eyeland, of India. His work is currently collected by the Williamsburg Art and Historical Center of Brooklyn.