Pros: If you have ever wanted to fly like a bird...
Cons: Pricey. But look for the deals. Only a bird-brain would buy at list price.
“ I hope you love birds, too. ... It saves going to Heaven.”
It is said that if birds knew what they were doing ...they would fall from the sky like rocks. That they do not is a tribute to the efficiency of intelligent design or evolution ...take your pick.
Among the first to capture natural, life-like images of birds and other wildlife was John James Audubon, a 19th century American artist, perhaps best-known for his painting of birds. Most of his work focuses on life-like images of the bird itself with enough 'background' imagery to hint at the animal's natural habitat.
Audubon's work was the first exposure of many Americans to the natural beauty of their land and its creatures. His work was an early impetus to conservation awareness and preservation work in nineteenth century America.
Continuing in the vein of 'capturing nature' comes Andrew Zuckerman with his signature white backgrounds, and his skill in capturing the beauty and essence of his subjects. While Audubon seemed to want to educate his viewers about lands and animals previously unseen, Zuckerman seems to want to wow today's jaded viewer with the power and beauty of the animals alone.
Bird is a coffee-table book featuring his artistic photographs of dozens of bird species. While Zuckerman has tackled other subjects in other books, his topic here is the beauty and diversity of birds.
Each of his published books has featured intimate portraits of animals or humans. His skill and patience in allowing his subjects, man, beast, and bird, to become at ease and be photographed as naturally as possible is apparent here. A brief Introduction and a somewhat longer Epilogue share the only text in the book. Interesting content, but not the point of the book. A video posted online by Chronicle Books, the publisher of Bird, (URL posted below) shares the secrets of how these photographs were created.
Never mind how they were 'captured', the results are breathtaking. The 'punk-ish' Grey Crowned Crane portrait featured on the cover grabs your attention. The first picture in the book captures the same crane looking directly at the camera. It so reminds me of the bad high school yearbook photo we all wish had never been taken.
An intimate close-up of the Vulturine Guineafowl with colors from white through tans and violets to deep browns gives a glimpse of both the richness of this bird's plumage and the richness of content to be found throughout the book. There are several other close-ups of plumage and birds that are stunning in their own right.
There are many images of the birds in flight and 'grounded' ...they easily demonstrate the strength, symmetry, and beauty of each bird's body. The white pages are a perfect background for the images shared. Even the pages featuring white-feathered birds, e.g. the Snowy Owl, produce powerful yet intimate images.
Zuckerman is also not afraid to 'go large' or 'go small' with his images. Part of the charm of flipping through the book the first time is discovering the next surprising image as you turn a page. One two-page spread features a bird's head and upper body dangling into the page from above; bright orange plumage, beak open, eye bright. An incredible image. The rest of the two pages ...nothing but white. The variety of funny, quirky, and simply charming pictures is just incredible.
The Bottom Line
Hmmm. What to say about a book of pictures. Each reader will have his/her favorite 'shots'; or their favorite birds.
With a twelve-inch by 12-inch format holding 300 pages, hundreds of images, and weighing in at nearly six pounds, Bird will be a great reading experience for any reader with an eye that appreciates the beauty of nature. For the avian fan with the heart to love birds it will be a sure hit.
Certified 'lean-n-mean' review.
From: The National Aviary via publisher Chronicle Books
From: Studio 4A BIRD Behind the Scenes
Wonderful videos, both well worth watching...
The Ellen Degeneres Show, an appearance by author/photographer Andrew Zuckerman, discussing his first book Creature.