Category Archives: Book reviews

Out of the Wild

Glitterati Inc., 2013
192 pp, landscape hardcover, 140 b/w photos, 13 x 10”
ISBN: 9780988174526


The animal kingdom is a colourful place, but not in the eyes of the Serbian photographer Boza Ivanovic (1972). The bright feathers, divergent stripes or striking camouflage is irrelevant; he captures the essence of a creature’s spirit in black and white. With the captivating photographs in his first book Out of the Wild: Zoo Portraits he pulls the viewer past the protective boundaries of no less than sixty-three zoos in nine countries over the course of nine years, and let’s his subjects appear as they do in nature – without the bars that restrict their freedom.



By getting up close and personal with the world’s most voracious predators, Boza captures a sensation of awe and fear in his images, creating a tension that’s felt at first glance: a wolf staring you straight in the eye, the open jaws of an alligator, a jaguar posing as though it could hunt you down any second. The dynamics of going to the zoo and peacefully gazing at the animals is artfully transformed in these photographs. Others, like the one of a contemplating chimpanzee or a lion gazing into the sky, connect you with these animals like no wildlife image ever did before; giving them a humane touch that acts like a window to their soul.


There is no background that distracts, no other aspects that could lead your eyes away from the animal. They emerge from the darkness and move gracefully toward the lens, their whole persona or precious detail is captured. The stripes of the Zebra highlighted, the teeth of a Macaca carefully crafted and the claw of a Bear majestically revealed. The animals seem to voluntarily express themselves to Boza’s camera.

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The Gorilla for example was different. Boza had to be close to the wall and wait for the right moment. But every time he took a picture, the animal turned his back on him. Moving to the other side of the enclosure the ritual repeated itself. Yet, after he turned his back to him the Gorilla would actually look at Boza. It made him realise that this animal actually knew what he was trying to do. “A really scary thing to think about’, he said.  “It made me wonder what’s going on in this creature’s head? Does he want to be free?” He found this an emotional experience.


Showing the emotions and character of a wild animal is a challenge that few photographers attempt. Boza has been successful by using B&W, creating an image where the animal is centralised, and without the distraction of colour and surroundings. By doing this you focus on their expressions, moods and look at them as an equal. Even the sound that the photographer heard when shooting the image seems to resonate; the animal’s scream or roar is visible. This style of imagery is rare as it connects to the animal kingdom on such a human level.

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Before They Pass Away

TeNeues, 2013.
424 pp, 4 gatefolds, hc w/ jacket, 402 color photographs, 11,5 x 14,5″
ISBN: 9783832797591

JNelson Umschlag fDummy3.indd

He sees himself as a messenger, not in the biblical sense of the word, but a visual one, in the form of a photographer. Over two and a half years, Jimmy Nelson (b. 1967, United Kingdom) travelled around the world capturing tribal cultures on the brink of transformation due to the technological expansion that soon will reach even the most distant corners of the globe. Nelson saw it as his task to capture the traditional lives of these shrinking communities, bringing the images together in his new book, Before They Pass Away.

Carrying a 4×5 field camera to 44 countries, from islands in the South West Pacific Ocean to the Artic Coast, from the Amazon rainforest to the Tibetan mountains, Nelson embarked on a journey of visual anthropology. The 29 different tribes he portrays are still authentic, unspoiled by the effects of globalisation, their lives still dominated by rituals and efforts to survive the harshness of nature. Yet, it’s not exactly those aspects that Nelson has focused on, instead posing them for close-up portraits and group photos on locations that offered the best lighting and backgrounds. He even got two tribesmen in Vanuata to stand on top of a mountain, posing with their bows, waiting for the perfect ray of sunlight. The result is that, although the images show the tribesmen’s deep and passionate knowledge for the nature in which they live, it does not particularly reveal their real lives, but rather, a representation of how their lives look from the perspective of an outsider who has a directorial vision.

“I am teaching the developed world what they have lost and enlightening the underdeveloped world what they still have,” Nelson explains about the project. “Most importantly, I wanted to create an ambitious aesthetic photographic document that would stand the test of time. A body of work that would be an irreplaceable ethnographic record of a fast disappearing world.” While it’s impossible to ignore the irony of exposing isolated groups to the full Hollywood-style crew and equipment treatment that Nelson used, and the implicit conflict of interests, the results are beautiful, however biased.

A master composer, Nelson managed to get whole tribes to climb into trees, stand atop of a volcano and pose in the freezing cold. Combined with intimate portraits, the resulting 400 images in Before They Pass Away move between macro and micro levels, showing a wide variety of human experiences and cultural expressions. The exoticism of tribes like the Rabari, Mursi and Himba sound so remote, but Nelson manages to bring them much closer. Their costumes and rituals may seem unfamiliar, but Nelson portrays families and family members in a dynamic recognisable even to a Western family.

Although Nelson saw it as his task to truthfully document the lives of these people, the photos in actuality are rather glossy and romantic. It seems contradictory that Nelson wanted to portray these ‘untouched’ tribes in their natural habitat, yet completely arranged the setting and his subjects in an unnatural way. All the people are in the perfect place at the right moment, fully dressed up and prepared for the shutter of the photographer. Warriors walking through the bush, an elderly man standing on top of a holy mountain or a woman sitting in a desolated desert: he staged it all. Yet the benefit to this is that much can be seen in the photographs. Nelson succeeds in showing us the tribes in their full glory: the richness of their individual cultures, the strength of their solidarity and independence.

Read the original review on OnPhotobooks or GUP

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Waits/Corbijn ’77-’11

Schirmer/Mosel, 2013
272 pp, lim. edit. 6.600 ex., 226 color/duotone plates
ISBN: 9783829605557

cover_tom_waits copyA new photobook from Anton Corbijn (1955) is always a good reason for a lot of media attention and a grand presentation. Earlier this year it was time for a moment like that again, this time for Waits/Corbijn ’77-’11, a combination between the work of the rockstar amongst Dutch photographers and the musical star Tom Waits. The amount of artists that Corbijn shot is almost uncountable, but the chosen ones which he actually dedicates a book to are scares. Starting with Depeche Mode of course, followed by the German singer Herbert Grönemeyer, the unforgettable work he did with U2 and not to forget the Dutch rock & roll junkie Herman Brood. And now there is the book about Waits, whom he met in 1977.

Almost 35 years of friendship are covered in Waits/Corbijn ’77-’11, resulting in a photobook with 226 image; each a witness of a very fruitfull collaboration for both careers. Unfortunately the book is only available in a limited edition of 6.600 pieces for quite a steep price which can only be expected to rise ones this exclusive publication is sold out. Exclusivity is something that was to be expected from Corbijn: the book is bonded stylishly in linen and simply look stunning.

Even though most of the images consist of portraits of the eccentric Waits a quarter of the book is kept free for pictures from his own hand. A nice gesture from Corbijn, but for those snapshots you obviously don’t pay good money. Even though they will help to understand the person Waits better, according to Corbijn, the singer should stick to making music. The intimate pictures the better photographers shot however, are pure world class. ‘Believe me, I don’t jump of a rock with a Dracula cape for anybody’, says Waits, a quote that says everything about their friendship that already lasts over three decades.

That relationship is visible on every raw, grainy, artistic or confronting image. Black and white is the composition that suits Waits and Corbijn best and next to just a few color images these form the overtone. Dark and harsh, that’s it, but because it concerns two friends you also find a hit of humor that they must have experienced when shooting. Waits couldn’t have asked for a better chronicler of his life than Corbijn.

Read the original review on OnPhotobooks

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Jim Naughten – Conflict and Costume, The Herero Tribe of Namibia

Merrell, 2013
108 pp, hardback with jacket, 75 illustrations, 70 in colour, 29 x 25 cm.
ISBN: 9781858946009

Merrell spine

It couldn’t have been an easy trip for Jim Naughten (1969), traveling thousands of kilometers through the Namibian desert and constantly having to clean his camera from all the dust and sand. Still, it was the only way to meet and portray as many members of the Herero tribe in the South African country. He needed to tell them what he was planning on doing and that took a lot of preparation, effort and perseverance. The British photographers wanted to capture the tribe members in their flamboyant and colored costumes, which however stem from a troubled past.

‘In the European scramble to colonise Africa, Kaiser Wilhelm’s Germany claimed one of the least populated and most hostile environments on the planet. It became Deutsche Sudewest- afrika. Though sparsely populated, it was already home to the San, Nama and Herero people. Rhenish missionaries set about converting and clothing them after European fashion. Over time, this became a Herero tradition, and continuing to dress in this manner was a great source of pride to the wearer’, Naughten explains on his foreword. War broke out between German colonizers and the local tribes in 1904. The Herero tribe was devastated, having lost almost eighty percent of its population. Garments became an important expression of identity during these fragile times. Upon killing a German soldier, a Herero warrior would remove the uniform and adopt it to his personal dress as a symbol of his prowess in battle. Paradoxically, as with the Victorian dresses, the wearing of German uniforms became a tradition that is continued to this day by Namibian men who honour their warrior ancestors during ceremonies, festivals and funerals.’

In four months Naughten produced his broad work for Conflict and Costume, The Herero Tribe of Namibia with the searing heat of the intens Namibian desert as backdrop for marvelous portraits of it’s proud inhabitants. Fully dressed up. Meaning men in paramilitairy uniforms or all suited up, woman in exuberant dresses in Victorian style, all with a hint of Africa and powerful, full of self confidence captured. When you realise that some of these gears take up to ten meters of fabric and the temperature reaches fifty degress Celsius, you understand that posing must have been quite a challenge.

Naughten got invited to weddings, funerals and other ceremonies which proved the perfect occasions to catch the decked Herero’s and portray them in the magnificant Namibian landscape. Some appear suddenly and just fitted perfectly in the light settings, while for others extensive negotiation with the village elders was required.

‘These portraits are not intended to serve as a conventional documentary of Herero culture’, he explains on his website. ‘They do not capture the subject in a snapshot of everyday life nor with objects typical of routine or social station. Subjects are removed from their home and intentionally suspended in a confrontational posture. As such, their identity as Herero tribe members is reified in their garments and their gaze, a colour and vibrancy brought into acute focus by the contrasting setting.’

Respect, honour and pride are therefore important aspects of his work and everything in Conflict and Costume represents that. The low view point is one of the things that make that visible. Fifteen years ago – back then on a motorcycle – Naughten traveled through the country and got fascinated with the clothing style of the Herero’s. Now there is this phenomenal book with monumental images. Luckily, finally.

Read the original review on OnPhotobooks

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Mårten Lange – Another Language

Mack, 2012
96 pp, embossed hardcover, 59 tritone plates, 14 x 21 cm.
ISBN: 9781907946301

Marten Lange

The aesthetics of science and nature are recurring themes in the work of Mårten Lange (1984) and his fascination shows again in his latest book Another Language. In his previous four books we saw a particular lot of trees, branches, machines or shots of unexpected events pass through the pages. Ever in his signature abstract form. It’s no surprise therefore that he opens his new work with a quote from the German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, who declares that ‘the physical boundaries of nature end at a point where the intellect starts and there opens a new world for the mind.‘ And let that be precisely what Lange had perceived and in which he succeeds with his first big overview in which just nature holds a central position. He combines flora, fauna and natural occurrences like eddy currents to intimate still lifes in which he changes off landscapes which images of batts, fishes or a pumpkin.

The subtle storyline – the minuscule black and white photographs are fit with text nor caption – presents itself by slowly exfoliate through the small, thin book. You will discover that his story starts with a meteorite crater, followed by several masses of land and ends with an image of a plant far away. Though this is not what the Swedish photographer actually want to show, for him it’s more important to explain the consistency of nature and the cryptic clues that these behold. By using returning shapes, patterns and textures he want the break the simplicity within the image and mirror that against an enigmatic whole.

The artistic images that are always presented in a centered way seem to be uninformative at times, just like the subjects can be vague and unclear. But it’s the complete picture that forms the key to his work. Hence the alternations between the elusive – lightning, the stars – and that what is so everyday and common, like ducks and stones. These subjects Lange pulls apart from their background and isolates them. He spend one and a half years working on Another Language and of the hundreds of images he shot only 59 made it into the book. Though most of the situation just happened by pure coincidence, he did have a list of subjects which he wanted to portray. With that list he set of, like a gatherer. Notwithstanding the fact that he didn’t find everything he was looking for, he is happy with the result. And so are the critics.

Read the original review on OnPhotobooks

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Alex MacLean – Up on the Roof

Princeton Architectural Press, 2012
240 pp, hardcover, 200 color illustrations, 9 x 12”
ISBN: 9781616890506


Put the American photographer Alex MacLean (1947) in a small airplane with his camera and you know that only marvelous images can be the result. Whether it be landscapes, cities or natural phenomenons, Maclean seems to capture them all with ease. Time and time again he finds that subject which appeals to him and knows how to portray this in his megalomanic fashion. Next to primarily American landscape he focused specifically on just a city before: with Las Vegas and Venice.

For his latest release Up on the Roof he again decided to take it from a higher viewpoint, but exchanged his aircraft for a helicopter. Probably worked a lot easier when swirling above the Big Apple, because he focussed all his attention on the roofs of the building in New York. Apartments, companies and skyscrapers; no building was to high for MacLean to not see what was happening on top of it. A roof terrace has always been a luxury in this ever busy city, one of which only the happy few can dream. For the normal New Yorker therefore always raises the question: ‘What’s up there?’ MacLean give us in his latest release an answer to this question, because even though the gates at street level remained closed for him as well he was unstoppable from the sky.

In total he captured 183 roof terraces, some of which were transformed to lush gardens (like the miniature forest of singer Bette Midler’s huge apartment in the Upper East Side), personal training facilities or even landing strips, like at 77 Water Street, where a model of a British fighter plane from the First World War can be found. Unimaginable that on top of most of these building, next to the famous water tanks, playgrounds, of course a lot of pools and even messages for extraterrestrial life have been created. A world on top of another. All of this makes the book full of surprises, almost like a revelation.

While most inhabitants didn’t seem to be hime when MacLean passed over their private Garden of Eden’s – or simply didn’t care he was intruding on their privacy from this unorthodox position – other wave at him or hold up their beer. Let there be no doubt about the fact that the roof terraces of New York are actually just as busy as the street many levels below. Some of the building are highlighted, while the photographer in Chelsea captured whole blocks at ones. This way we also get a good overview of how these roofs are being used, which form an astonishing one third of unreachable spaces in Manhattan. Next to that Up on the Roof gives us a good image of the geometric city planning for which New York is so famous. Of all the images MacLean makes notice of the location in the book as well, so when you visit the city that never sleeps next time you can try to find them all. From the street that is.

Read the original review on OnPhotobooks

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