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John P. Jones III
- Publié sur Amazon.com
Wilfred Thesiger always "marched to the beat of a different drummer," and this no doubt commenced, and may have been caused by his birth in Addis Ababa, Abyssinia (now called Ethiopia) in 1911; he was the son of the first British Ambassador to the country. His childhood was devoid of European playmates; he grew up in an Africa that was much like it had been 500 years earlier. Thereafter, he preferred the vitality, and the wildness of the places that had not yet succumbed to the homogenization and the conveniences of the modern era. He undertook numerous journeys in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East; he seemed to be in a rush to see these places before they were forever transformed; and in large measure, he succeeded.
His most famous book is Arabian Sands (Penguin Classics), which is an account of his crossing of the Rub Al-Khali (the Empty Quarter of the Arabian Peninsula) just after the Second World War. He went duck hunting in the marshes of southern Iraq for two weeks, and wound up spending seven years there, documented in The Marsh Arabs (Penguin Classics) He undertook numerous other journeys, including one across the Sahara, from west to east, from Sudan to Tibesti, mountains in northern Chad prior to World War II. His other journeys are covered, but not in as great a detail, in his autobiography, Life Of My Choice
Unlike so many other explorers, who did it the hard way - on foot - he carried a camera with him. Some of the pictures have been printed elsewhere, many have not been, but it is very much a credit to the publisher that this effort was undertaken to provide the reader with a comprehensive collection of Thesiger's photos in one volume. The result is truly stunning.
The collection is composed of black and white photos, roughly divided evenly between landscapes and portraits. They have all been taken in a broad arc of the earth, starting in northern Kenya, going through Ethiopia, the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Central Asia, and ending in Ladkah, northern India. The sole exception to this geographic continuity is Morocco. The photos are all the more remarkable since almost all were taken with one camera, the Leica, and one lens. As Thesiger explains in the preface, the vast majority were "single shots"; he simply waited until the opportune moment, and relied on his impressive skills in composition. No "bracketing" for Thesiger; there was only so much film you could carry on those long trips. He also explains that he once he had gained the trust of these largely tribal people, others did not object to his photographic efforts. And since he traveled mainly in Muslim countries, most of the portraits are of men and boys.
The vast majority of his work is of the highest quality and truly memorable. It's hard for me to select favorites, but given certain naturally inclinations, I think they would have to be the ones from the crossing of the Rub Al Khali, with the undulating sand dunes, and the light and shadows cast by the cumulus clouds overhead (p 14-15).
In other reviews I've stated my qualms about the youthful companions who seemed to be an indispensable part of this life. In this volume however, I am simply overwhelmed by the quality of the photographic work of this one man who really did take the path less traveled. A solid 5-star production.