Portfolio: Yann Arthus-bertrand

The Bank Holiday crush, Rio style.

Whether it's to Brighton, Bognor or Blackpool, we cannot help ourselves when it comes to the Bank Holiday, as thousands of us pack up our towels and brollies and head to the beach.

Of course, we're more used to using our brollies to keep off the rain than the rays and our towels to mop our dampened spirits rather than our sea-soaked hair – but for those in Brazil, such thoughts are a million miles away. Well, 5,750 miles, anyway.

Temperatures in Rio de Janeiro this weekend are expected to hit 29C, meaning that scenes such as that captured here, by the French photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand, will be repeated along all 2km of Ipanema Beach.

Arthus-Bertrand, however, is less interested in the beach-goers themselves than what they represent: mankind's special relationship with the ocean.

More than half of the world's population lives less than 60 miles from the coast – a figure projected to rise to 75 per cent by 2035, according to Arthus-Bertrand's new book, From Above and Below: Man and the Sea. While surveys show that those who live on the coast are happier than those inland, there are not only human consequences – just try finding a secluded spot on this beach – but also tremendous environmental pressures, from overfishing to waste water.

Such concerns are central to Arthus-Bertrand's work: the photographer committed himself to promoting sustainable development in 1995 with the creation of the campaigning GoodPlanet Foundation – and, he says, he hopes that "speaking of [the world's] beauty might give us the momentum to save it".

'From Above and Below: Man and the Sea' (£39.95, Thames & Hudson) is out on 13 May

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