Through the Lens: National Geographic's Greatest Photographs Hardcover – Oct 1 2003
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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
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.
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Top Customer Reviews
disappointed in the book. More than half of the featured photographs were recent, many taken in the last 5 years. So many of the breath taking pictures that I remeber were not included. I cannot even guess at what the critera was for photographs to be included in this book but, in my opinion, these are not the best of National Geographic.
Just as much as many of Henri-Cartier Bresson's publications are a rehash of previous publications plus new images, I found only several of the images are from previous old publications. However, I consider these as almost symbols of the NG series.
As a photographer, I have since gone thru the book 3 times and I find the images entertaining and lovely to soak in.
Yet your latter end would increase abundantly." -- Job 8:7
Before starting my review, let me note that at the time I wrote this review Amazon had mixed up reviews for the larger size hardcover book available at $30 with the smaller size hardcover book available at $16.95. I am reviewing the smaller format book that came out in September 2009 (6.6 inches by 6.1 inches by 1.5 inches). Unless you don't care what size your photographs are, I recommend you spend the extra money and get the larger size version that came out in October 2003 (10.7 inches by 10.1 inches by 1.8 inches). I think in the larger page size the book is a five-star resource for any photography lover. If you are a National Geographic subscriber or admirer, why wouldn't you want to own that book?
Like many books of photographs, many of these reproductions will appeal to you more than others. I happen to like nature shots that provide me with a new perspective on life against a backdrop of stunning beauty. Obviously, National Geographic could have filled many volumes with just such images. A boy diving backward off a water buffalo into a muddy river filled with water buffalo perfectly captures the sort of thing I mean (James P. Blair, 1993, in Bangladesh), as does a meerkat keeping watch (Mattias Klum, 2002).
There are also some marvelous wilderness shots that take the civilization out of you in meditative ways (Maria Stenzel, 1996, islands on the Fond du Lac River; Steve Winter, 2001, jaguar in Belize; and Jim Brandenburg, 1987, arctic wolf)
More typically, these images are about people.Read more ›
Bottom line: I liked it. Since I am not a regular reader of National Geographic, all of the pictures were new to me. This is an excellent collection of photography for someone who just wants to look at some wonderful pictures. One can look through the book casually and enjoy the pictures (as I did), or one can study the pictures and see exactly what is going on and find nuance within the pictures. Either way works. Good pictures, good book, and it was an enjoyable time looking at some of the best of National Geographic's photography.
Most recent customer reviews
Excellent collection of images for those who like history, nature, travelling, and life. Amazing visual journey is waiting for those who will buy this item. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Published on May 14 2010 by Maryna Maskaliova
I would underline what several reviewers pointed out about pictures and make (that's what the 2 stars are for), but I found that there are several serious errors in this book. Read morePublished on Feb. 25 2004 by Michael Engelen
I'll give 3 stars to this book for the hidden gems in it, and for the expansive collection of photographs. However, National Geographic seems to have chosen quantity over quanlity. Read morePublished on Dec 24 2003 by Ms. Walrus
I just want to point out that there is a spelling mistake in page 187. It should be "Xinjiang, China", not "Xianjiang, China". Read morePublished on Dec 5 2003