There are beautiful books and there are masterpieces. Kenya by Michael Poliza and Friends is a masterpiece. From page one it is clear this book is something new and completely different in the world of photography. Kenya is photographs of landscapes, animals, and people.
Kenya is a massive book of color photographs. Poliza's Classic Africa from last year was black and white, (Classic Africa) and a more intimate close up view of animals. Kenya is expansive and more about the huge landscape and the place animals and people have in those views. These are bright, sharp, colorful images compared to the monochrome from last year. Both books have their place; Kenya is a bit easier to appreciate.
The book is wrapped in a plastic shrink-wrap with a sticker, "A portion of the proceeds from this book will be donated to the charity organization SOS Children's Village for their relief work in East Africa." What a fantastic gesture.
The four photographers represented in this book are Michael Poliza, Steve Bloom, Paul Mckenzie, and Federico Veronesi. Roughly 80% of the photographs are by Poliza. Poliza was a German television actor, turned IT professional, and in the late 1990's turned wildlife and landscape photographer. Since the 1990's Steve Bloom has documented African wildlife and landscapes, he was born in South Africa. Paul Mckenzie was born in Kenya, worked in finance for 20 years and in the 1990's started his career in wildlife photography. Federico Veronesi born in Milan, lives in Kenya, leads photography safaris and is a full time photographer since 2007. It appears all these photographers have a passion for Africa and are less interested in making a huge amount of money.
Kenya is massive; the pages are very heavy weight semi gloss paper slightly larger than 11 x 14. Most of the images cover two pages and somehow Poliza has taken into account the spine fold in each double wide. Essentially, this is a book of 22 x 14 inch photographs. There are 237 pages of images. The binding strains against the task of holding this incredibly heavy book together. The book is presented with a matte paper cover that hides an amazing embossed hardbound book that looks like an animal hide. It seems a shame to hide this beautiful book. The inner leaf paper cover is of a faded landscape with elephants.
TeNeuese is a master at reproducing fine photography. The colors and tone range are reproduced perfectly; the images look like photographic prints. Blacks are solid deep and blemish free all the way to perfect ivory whites the tone range is remarkable.
Unfortunately each image is marred with a page number in the lower right or left corner. The numbers are, relative to the size of the images, small, but they are a distraction all the same. Each image is described in a thumbnail index at the back of the book. The photographer, exposure information, and a paragraph describing the picture are included. Thankfully this information is at the end of the book and not the bottom of each image.
These are stunning images. There is a flavor of Planet Earth and National Geographic, except there's more depth in these photographs. The other two produce absolute perfection in every single image, and sometimes the photograph is included because they are so perfect. Not every image in Kenya is perfection, not every image is absolutely tack sharp and studio perfect. Instead, Poliza and friends have captured more of the feeling of Kenya, more of a sense of being there. The image of an eagle owl with it's mouth open about to swallow a mouse whole is slightly out of focus, slightly blurry, but perfectly exposed. This picture might not have ever appeared in Planet Earth or National Geographic, because it is slightly blurry. Poliza captured the perfect moment just before the mouse became a meal, that imperfection is what makes the image so perfect.
Each image could be framed. There is a particularly spectacular image of flamingos (the flamingo series overall is incredible) that is a two-page fold out - when open the image measures 14 x 44 inches. The single most iconic is a cheetah standing majestically on a dead tree overlooking the tundra. There is movement in both forms, the cheetah fitting perfectly in the composition.
Aerial photography is a special art. The Poliza has mastered this art. They find shapes and colors that are unimaginable, sometimes just a beautiful form; others look like animals or plants.
There is a not so great forward by Eberhard Brandes, CEO, World Wide Fund for Nature Germany, and a beautiful essay by Poliza on his passion for Kenya. Both essays are in English, French, and German. The last section of the book is the thumbnail index, biographies of the four photographers all in three languages. Poliza acknowledges all the support he has for his photography safaris and adds a small pitch for his travel business - authentic safaris in Kenya. There are two pages from the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) describing the dire needs of Kenya and asking for support. Finally the book closes with two pages of other titles by Poliza.
This is a masterpiece book from a wildlife photography standpoint, from an art standpoint, and from a rise to support this country standpoint. It may sound silly, but this book could very easily sit on a table and flip the page once per day. The images are so beautiful and stunning, they deserve at least a day of viewing. I loved this book, it is simply gorgeous.
The publisher provided me with a copy of this book for review.