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Edge of the Earth, Corner of the Sky

Published in 2003; Art Wolfe, Forewords by Robert Redford and John H. Adams, Essays by Art Davidson; Wildlands Press (Publisher);

The following review first appeared in Issue 2, 2005 of The Picture Professional, the quarterly magazine of the American Society of Picture Professionals, www.aspp.com. ASPP is a community of image experts committed to sharing our experience and knowledge throughout the industry.

Review by Danita Delimont / ASPP:

At first glance, Art Wolfe's Edge of the Earth, Corner of the Sky is a beautiful coffee table book that spans the globe through extraordinary images. Wolfe's skillful use of light is stunning. He has learned to watch and measure the light as it plays across a panorama, setting up his picture slowly and waiting for the right moment. His art background comes into strong play in all of his images.

One could spend months flipping through the striking pages, admiring the images, without ever realizing there is a thoughtful message within the text. Naturally, coming from an exceptional wildlife photographer who spends years in the solitude of nature, it's understandable that the message is about protecting the Earth from further destruction and unnecessary development.

The Foreword, by celebrated actor and activist Robert Redford, points out the importance of becoming involved in whatever way we can. He speaks to the reader of the natural affinity that we as human beings have for nature and the wilderness. He also reminds us that our history and legends have been interwoven with experiences and influences we gain from nature.

John Adams, an environmental attorney and president of the Natural Resource Defense Council, points out that Wolfe's book is a veritable catalog of endangered landscapes and worldwide panoramas. These sometimes haunting images remind us of the fragile and vulnerable beauty we stand to lose. He tells us that energy, timber and mining companies are invading and destroying our planet's few remaining expanses of primeval wilderness, and we must do our part to preserve what we still can.

Art Davidson is an acclaimed writer and filmmaker who has spent many years interacting with indigenous tribes worldwide. His essays accompany each chapter. Over the years he has traveled to fragile ecosystems, trying to gain some kind of appreciation and insight from tribal people who are being affected by development. He is their voice when he addresses colleagues at the United Nations on worldwide developmental issues. Davidson tells stories of the indigenous tribes with underlying themes of their spiritual connection to the land their ancestors taught them to protect. These tribal people are so small in numbers, they cannot be a force against westernization, the government and the overall agenda of corporate excess.

The book is divided into the various ecosystems: Desert, Ocean, Mountain, Forest, and Polar. In the back is a section that will appeal to photographers. In his photo notes, Wolfe tells us not only which cameras, lenses, film and exposures he used, but also interesting anecdotes about the situations.

Images illustrating the Desert are evocative of an ecosystem few people understand. Davidson tells of the nomadic Tuareg people who travel through the desert, following the weather patterns and the tufts of fresh grass and water it provides for their animals. In Oceans, we learn about dwindling fish and marine mammals; the global warming effects of melting icecaps and glaciers; and, the effects on coastal people worldwide. The Mountain chapter opens with a stunning double page Alpine scenic reflecting in a lake. We hear of local ranchers and wildlife enthusiasts who are working to keep open lands from being fenced so mountain goats and other wildlife can roam freely and access their feeding grounds.

Images from the quaking aspen of Colorado to the magnificent redwoods in California illustrate the Forest chapter. Davidson tells us of a man who spent his life savings to sue the U.S. Forest Service for having committed 90 percent of the Alaskan coastal Tongass Forest to timber companies. The Sierra Club and other conservation groups soon joined him, and the Forest Service was forced to set aside areas of critical habitat and scale back much of the logging.

The last chapter, Polar, contains images of both the Arctic and Antarctic seas with their icebergs and glaciers in all their many faces. The sun shines differently here than on the rest of the planet, or so it seems. The arctic people have, for centuries lived in harmony with arctic animals and recently defended the sacred calving grounds of the porcupine caribou herds that roam the Arctic Coastal Plain.

Edge of the Earth should be an inspiration to all of us. There is a need to have a sustainable lifestyle that enables us to live in balance with nature. As one Yanomami tribesperson so eloquently put it, "...(we all need) to teach the children not to destroy the Earth anymore. The situation isn't dangerous just for the Yanomami but for everyone. We all live on the same planet."


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