Tui De Roy Moore's "Galapagos: Islands Lost in Time" is a book of stunning images by an inspired photographer who has lived among her subjects for decades. When Tui was five years old her parents left their native Belgium to settle in the Galapagos, the famous archipelago of volcanic islands 600 miles off the Pacific coast of Ecuador. She grew up in a world of ocean and lava, where the neighbors were giant tortoises, marine iguanas, and other strange species that had so intrigued the young Charles Darwin.
The parents tutored Tui and her younger brother at home in French and English and mathematics, but she turned down the chance to continue her schooling in Europe or America. Where she mastered the intricacies of lenses, filters, and exposure we are never told.
Any of the photographs in this book would be welcome in the best natural history or geographic magazines. Moore has obviously spent thousands of patient hours observing, waiting, quietly exposing many frames of film for each one reprinted here.
Often while reading the book I wished that the text and photographs had been interspersed so that when the author is describing giant tortoises grazing on strange vegetation, the reader might glance at the facing page and have the feeling of being there. Unfortunately, such an arrangement would have accentuated the great difference in quality between the pictures and the text, which seems adequate only as a 50-page gloss to the photographs. Moore's prose is a little wooden, and most of the necessary information in the text can be found in the five-page appendix on Galapagos natural history.
Yet these criticisms seem almost unfair. We are tempted to expect more from this author's prose only because her photographs have excited our appetites for excellence. As for the binding, interspersing text and plates would have greatly increased the price of the book.
Tui Moore's craft is charged with the ability to capture a scene that combines a naturalist's appreciation of the animals in their habitat with an artist's intuitive sense of composition within a frame. There is a scene of marine iguanas waiting on the shore rocks for the dawn which Rembrandt would have loved. In another photograph, the skeleton of a giant tortoise looks as though its bones had been arranged on the desert soil, its shell and the sky painted by Georgia O'Keeffe.
A few of her pictures, and I keep finding more, are almost too good to be confined between the covers of a book. They are gifts from an artist who seems to work consistently on that level of awareness that most of us visit only in rare moments of perception. "Galapagos: Islands Lost in Time" is a book full of wonders.