The new book Mermaid – A Dream Made Real from Aura Stiers and Cyrus Rhodes works as either a gift for someone in your life possessing artistic sensibilities or a photography lover. Anyone who appreciates mythology, the relationship between humanity and nature, poetry, or thoughtfulness of spirit will rate this book high thanks to the intimate confluence of those elements from first page to last. Stiers has a long personal history in the arts and that shines through in her ability to pose for a wide variety of shots, her costuming choices, and the surehandedness she displays connecting the written pieces with their photographic accompaniment.


There are several examples of the book’s visual wealth. The photography is, naturally, the centerpiece of Mermaid’s presentation, but the smaller visual additions such as a different drawing under the title of each written piece is a worthy feature of the book as well. The poetry and prose works are brief, never more than a page and change, but are bubbling over with rich imagery and unblinking reflections on both self and the world at large. Her scope is remarkably wide despite the abbreviated nature of each entry. Those written works anchor each of the book’s twenty chapters and have immense value that allows them to be evaluated as standalone works. “Mermaid in the Falls”, the first writing included in the book, is an excellent way to kick things off.

Later chapters match its quality. “Under Deep”, three pieces using piracy as a theme, the closer “Phantom by the Waterfall”, “Oh Deer of the Sea”, and “Mermaid by the Shining Tideland” make tremendous use of intimate and natural imagery to complement the photographic interpretations of the same themes. Few photographers in recent memory are as capable of capturing the beauty of the natural world like Rhodes does here and their probable brainstorming sessions hinge on how effectively the two can incorporate Stiers’ old fashioned and classy beauty with the aforementioned loveliness of the world around us.

They reside in an ideal environment for making this book possible. Washington State, the whole of the northwestern United States really, provides a wonderful backdrop for this sort of work. There’s a careful balance between the photography and text they maintain throughout the book. Mermaid’s length is never excessive and there’s never any portions of the 153 page work where readers will feel like there’s far too many pictures and not enough supporting material.


The intelligence and sensitivity running throughout the entirety of Mermaid – A Dream Made Real separates this book from the bulk of similar works. The truth is, however, that there’s few works you can hold up and compare to this book. It is singular, doesn’t have even a hint of imitation throughout its pages, and ultimately makes its mark as a truly individual statement in a cookie cutter world. Aura Stiers and Cyrus Rhodes make an impressive creative team and we will likely hear from them again in the future. Based on the merits of Mermaid – A Dream Made Real, we are in for another treat if they do.

Jason Hillenburg