Pictures worth more than words. – Wildlife: The World’s Top Photographers and the Stories behind Their Greatest Images

Pictures worth more than words. – Wildlife: The World’s Top Photographers and the Stories behind Their Greatest Images – book review

Paula Abend

Wildlife: The World’s Top Photographers and the Stories behind Their Greatest Images. By Terry Hope. 176 pages. RotoVision. $39 hardcover.

One of the best things about working on a magazine such as Animals is choosing the pictures. There’s a lot to consider besides the quality of the photograph and how well it works in a particular layout: Does it display the appropriate species? Was it taken in the wild or in captivity? Was the photo taken in a manner that put the subject’s well-being at risk or interfered with natural behaviors?

The truth is, we don’t always know the full story behind all of the hundreds of picture agency images Animals staff review for each issue. Often we can only guess what the photographer went through to get the shot.

In RotoVision’s Wildlife: The World’s Top Photographers with text by Terry Hope, readers are treated to some of me most stunning photographs ever taken of animals and to glimpses of the behind-the-scenes stories of these achievements. Shutterbugs will appreciate the technical particulars such as the camera type, settings, and lens used.

The work of many of the artists featured in the book will be familiar to Animals readers. Six photographs hint at the genius of Franz Lanting, although the extreme close-up of a toucan’s eye seems out of context without the remarkable images that accompany it in Lanting’s rainforest tour, Jungles. Art Wolfe and his extraordinary ability to convey “the emotion of the moment” is also well represented. The omisssion of Galen Rowell–who died along with his wife last summer in a plane crash–from this top 40 list seems an unfortunate oversight, but still, Wildlife is a treasure trove of talent.

Its photographs make it a welcome addition to any coffee table, but the book has missed an opportunity to reveal the intricate, trying, and edgy tactics that photographers sometimes employ. Bribing poachers for information, enduring hours in searing heat or cold, ignoring bugs crawling all over them, hauling heavy equipment over rough terrain for hours, the wildlife photographer’s life isn’t always easy or pretty. Yet Wildlife’s canned bios and unevenly revealing caption information give readers only a taste of what’s needed to do photographic justice to a subject as fascinating as wild animals: knowledge about their subjects, technical skill, artistic flair, physical endurance, bravery, patience, and luck.

Paula Abend is editor of Animals

COPYRIGHT 2003 Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group