The Pearl: An image of a breaching shark went viral.

An image of a breaching shark by photographer Chris Fallows, called The Pearl, went viral after it was taken in August 2020 (Credit: Chrisfallows.com)

‘Breach’ is the preferred word for the leap that whales and sharks make from the surface of water.

Related to ‘break’, ‘breach’ captures not only the gravity defiance of the act itself, but the shattering of the liquid plane that once restrained the creature as it begins ascending through the air.

No wonder Chris Fallow’s photograph of a great white shark, suspended 4.5m (15ft) above the waves near Seal Island, South Africa, in August 2020 – the highest shark breach thought to have ever been recorded – immediately went viral.

Preserved forever by the blink of Fallow’s lens, the breath-taking levitation of the hulking creature brought to mind British artist Damien Hirst’s career-defining installation of a toothy tiger shark floating in a vitrine of formaldehyde, to which Hirst attached the quizzical title …

The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991).

Hirst’s controversial work breached the norms of contemporary sculpture by blurring the line between a mere metaphor for breaking the barrier between being and death and a physical embodiment of that ultimate transition – slowed down by chemicals, like Fallows’ snap, to an eternal millisecond.

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