EYE TO EYE
By Frans Lanting
252 pp., $39.99
THE LIONS OF SAVUTI: HUNTING WITH THE MOON
Text by Dereck Joubert
Photographs by Beverly Joubert
National Geographic Books
168 pp., $40
NAKED: FLOWERS EXPOSED
Conceived by Walter Hubert
208 pp., $60
Well known photographers have distinctive styles. Viewers know the shooter without looking at the credit line. Style comes through in patterns, angles, technique, lighting, and subject matter. Great artists - no matter what their subject - capture thoughts, feelings, moods, ideas. They let us in on how they see the world so we can see it that way, too.
This ability to communicate a theme is all the more astounding when it comes to nature and animals. Wildlife photography, as anyone who has tried it knows, requires endless patience, a scientific knowledge of animal habits and habitats, often extremely heavy equipment, and no small dose of courage.
Photographer Frans Lanting has been capturing wild animals on film for two decades. Finally, in Eye to Eye, we have a portfolio of work representing the full range of his outstanding work. It's one of the finest books of animal photographs available. Lanting's stunning images go beyond beautiful. Their responses seem so human it's as if some of the animals are posing for portraits. He portrays each one with a distinct personality. The viewer has to remember that these are wild creatures. By staring into the eyes of leopards, orangutans, eagles, or seals, we are surprised to find we learn about ourselves. "People are always present in my photographs, whether the images appear to be of sanderlings, chameleons, or cougars. You just have to learn to look past the disguise," Lanting writes.
Beautifully reproduced, cleverly edited and laid out, and accompanied by personal stories and observations from the artist, this book will continue to amaze with its intimacy. More than 70 species from the far corners of the globe are represented. As Lanting hoped, the animals' dignity and strength shine through.
Dereck and Beverly Joubert have spent most of their adult life living among lions in northern Botswana. This award-winning husband-and-wife documentary-filmmaking team have successfully acclimated lions to their presence. What results is an access and intimacy that is astounding. As in their films, their first book, The Lions of Savuti: Hunting With the Moon, takes a documentary approach. Lions grow from cuddly cubs to savage hunters. Space is shared about equally between the photos and a well-written text with facts about lion biology, behavior, social structure, and individual personalities. Anecdotes and personal accounts of this couple's life make the book all the more readable. The pairing of words by Dereck and pictures by Beverly makes a powerful, informative package.
Naked: Flowers Exposed is a collection of black-and-white and color photos by 100 photographers and celebrities. It gives a sometimes quirky, and often striking view of flowers. The book was conceived by Walter Hubert, a prominent Los Angeles floral designer. He invited Herb Ritts, Joel Grey, Duane Michals, Sheila Metzner, Richard Gere, Bruce Weber, Galen Rowell, and others to photograph flowers "in artistic expressions of their fantasies, visions and dreams." Diversity is the book's strongest attribute: from still lifes and abstracts, to portraits and some nudes. The photographs will be auctioned by Sotheby's in April 1998 and proceeds donated to the AIDS charity, Friends in Deed.
* Melanie Stetson Freeman is a senior staff photographer for the Monitor.