Review by Gerhard Clausing •
We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals. – Immanuel Kant •
Everyone photographs animals, but very few do it well. While we can capture cute expressions of our pets, to understand and depict our fellow creatures from a more comprehensive perspective and with all the skills of a photojournalist, a portrait artist, and a gifted nature photographer, in order to give them the stature they deserve, is much more difficult.
There are some stellar examples from the past. For instance, in his small yet major contribution The Animals (my signed copy is one of my treasures), Garry Winogrand did a marvelous job in visually integrating behaviors of humans and animals from a social perspective, using a zoo as the mutually captive and captivating environment. That project may have been more about limitations rather than about possibilities.
The work of Steve McCurry is much more comprehensive. McCurry travels widely and is known for his superb understanding of other cultures. He is the creator of iconic portraits, such as the one of the girl from Afghanistan, that capture the beauty and strife of entire nations in a single shot and have etched themselves into our collective consciousness, perhaps even into our conscience.
In this photobook animals and humans are given equal status. We see both combined in environmental portraits, and the environments range from untamed nature to man-made dwellings in many regions of the world, especially Asia and South America. The interdependence between the humans and their animals (or the animals and their humans) puts them on an equal footing. This book is McCurry’s touching tribute to our planet, and it encourages us to respect all creatures.
Some of the images are in themselves beautiful reminders of the delicate balance of nature and our existence. We see the comfort that animals and humans give each other. We see the carefree abandon of animals in the wild, and the fine-tuning of their coexistence in cramped human quarters. We see animals and humans affected by natural calamities as well as the constraints of overpopulation. It is also clear from the depictions how much animals depend on the good will and protection of humans, and how intimately the existence of all of us creatures on this planet is intertwined. The portraits of animals are of the special quality that lets their personalities be shown, just like the finest portraits of people.
The images are accompanied by supportive quotes, such as the one at the beginning of this article. There are also detailed notes and location information for each photograph. This is a beautiful, large, well-printed photobook, a showpiece in your collection for all the reasons mentioned above, and most especially because of the superb images that pay tribute to the creatures of the world, as you can see below.
Steve McCurry – Animals
Photographer: Steve McCurry (born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; lives and works in Pennsylvania, New York, and Arizona)
Publisher: Taschen, Cologne (Köln), Germany; © 2019
Texts: Quotes, thoughts, captions, context data for the photographs
Hardback with illustrated dust cover, sewn binding; 252 pages, paginated, with color images throughout; 25 x 34 cm (10 x 13 ¼ inches); printed in Italy
Editor: Reuel Golden
Photobook Designer: SMITH, London