Since the 10.5 million images in National Geographic
's possession won't fit in a book, the 250 in this moderately glossy, minimally costly collection will do nicely. Through the Lens
is a stunning collection of photos judiciously apportioned to represent the regions of the earth, the sea, and outer space; humans and nature; and even the history of the medium--a few historic black and whites contrast dramatically with the eye-popping modern color shots that dominate the book. As ever, the esthetic key to their impact is the use of big, emotional pictures with witty little captions, and whenever possible, startling juxtapositions. A Boston matron's faux-fur coat looks just like her pet Dalmatian (the caption identifies them as "spots fans"). The world's widest street (in Buenos Aires) by night looks great next to a grassy highway overpass for grizzly bears in Alberta. The famous green-eyed Afghan refugee poses in a purple burkha with her 1985 National Geographic
cover. A Moscow shopper tries on a snowsuit, oblivious to the huge face in the ad on the wall behind him, whose nose he obscures and smile he bisects. A fuzzy shot of a 1907 inventor testing a multiwinged "Katydid" flying machine contrasts with a crisp 1974 shot of Skylab soaring far above fluffy clouds. Often, what's striking is the juxtaposition of ideas. An Arctic wolf making an impossible leap between ice floes arcs in midair, only its reflection hitting the frigid water. A 1935 Model T "surfs" a steep dune in White Sands, New Mexico. Chorus lines of stuffed cane-toad corpses with surreally clothespinned snouts perform on a taxidermist's shelf. Newborns are lined up like bread loaves in Shanghai. A woman in a white chador sits in the Tripoli airport, the white lines of fluorescent ceiling bulbs radiating behind her head like a saint's halo. This isn't the fanciest photo book of the season, but it certainly is a good deal. Tim Appelo
--This text refers to an alternate
From Publishers Weekly
This monumental collection of 250 photos, mostly in color and drawn from the National Geographic Society's archive of 10.5 million, will be published simultaneously in 20 languages, with an eye toward the 113-year-old magazine's international readership of 40 million. As in the magazine, the society's signature blend of dramatic, rigorously composed natural shots and "family of nations"-style culture peeps are backed by broad captions and text ("Perfecting la dolce vita, the people of Europe are renowned for their wholehearted embrace of life's rewards, from festivals to fine dining to stolen moments with friends or loved ones") often far exceeded by the pictures themselves. Meticulously (and sympathetically) deconstructed in Catherine Lutz and Jane Collins's early '90s book Reading National Geographic, the society's broader-crossing humanism is in full effect here-and it retains its arresting power. The six sections ("Europe"; "Asia"; "Africa & the Middle East"; "The Americas"; "Oceans and Isles"; "The Universe") include the first color underwater photographs, as well as collaborative work with NASA, and prominently credit the 84 photographers whose work is featured, giving the book a less homogenous feel. More than 50% of the photos, crisply printed and mostly double-truck, are from the last 10 years, with iconic favorites (like the 1985 cover portrait of a green-eyed Afghan woman and its 1997 full-burqa reprise) threaded in. Weighing in at seven pounds, with an initial international printing of 375,000 and with an accompanying exhibition this fall at the society's Washington, D.C., Explorer's Hall museum, this book should make a considerable impression.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
--This text refers to an alternate