I picked this one up prior to my trip to Hawaii. Archipelago explores the remote Northwestern Islands of Hawaii, so not exactly where I'd be heading,...moreI picked this one up prior to my trip to Hawaii. Archipelago explores the remote Northwestern Islands of Hawaii, so not exactly where I'd be heading, but it was a photography book, about animals, and about Hawaii, so that's a pretty good combo for me.
This book is full of stunning photography. Hats off to Liittschwager and Middleton for their exceptional work. Most of the photos come from their studio setup, which included a tank, lighting, and a black or white background. While this doesn't show the species in its actual habitat, their reasoning for this type of aesthetic was so that they could highlight and glorify the animal itself. I have no problem with this. There were also photos of some animals and plants, especially the various bird species, in their native habitats. This was because it was often difficult to bring those species into a studio setup.
The book was also filled with a lot of text, which I didn't expect but was happy to see. Instead of just looking at the photography, it was really great to read about their work to shed more light on this area and its inhabitants. I also enjoyed reading about the work of the scientists that are on these islands. I think it's important that more people learn about places like these and the impact that our actions are having on the environments and the species. I can totally understand the pairing of these beautiful portraits with this text, to convey the immense loss we could be experiencing soon if things don't change.
I'm definitely looking forward to checking out more books from this pair. I also did some Googling and found some of Liittschwager's recent work, in particular, his One Cubic Foot project which is really freakin' cool. I just love discoveries like this and also, I can't believe I hadn't seen this earlier.
The end of the book is filled with mini species profiles, detailing facts about each of the animals/plants photographed. I've been trying to read through each of these, but it's hard to read more than a few at a time. Also, this book is not exactly portable, so I finally decided to just write this review as I try to go through the rest of the profiles.(less)
It's generally frowned upon, in most scientific research, to assign "human" characteristics to animals - to anthropomorphize them. Of course, many peo...moreIt's generally frowned upon, in most scientific research, to assign "human" characteristics to animals - to anthropomorphize them. Of course, many people, especially pet owners, have trouble with this, as they see their pets behave in certain ways that show they have emotions and a personality.
As I read and learn more, I question the idea of completely closing off any thinking along this perspective. To put it in basic terms, I wonder that if science posits that humans evolved in the same process as any other animal, why is it not possible that other animals also developed traits similar to us - namely, personalities and character and emotions, etc.?
I've seen a lot more perspectives along these lines. Notably, Deep Intellect by Sy Montgomery, a longform article about octopuses from Orion Magazine that went viral in 2011, stands out in my head. In it, she talks about octopus intelligence and consciousness. In a follow up to the article, Montgomery, along with ethologist Marc Bekoff and aquarist Scott Dowd, held a live web discussion about animal intelligence. They discussed the exact point I mentioned above.
And in fact, in the beginning of this book, there are a couple pages that go into animal emotions and consciousness. Marc Bekoff appears as well.
On a Darwinian note, evolutionary biologist Marc Bekoff of the University of Colorado, who has written extensively on animal sentience, puts it like this: "Evolutionary continuity - a concept that came from Charles Darwin - stresses that there are differences in degrees rather than in kind between humans and other animals. That applies to emotions. We share many bodily systems, including the limbic system, where emotions are rooted. So if we have joy or sorrow, they have it, too. It isn't the same joy or the same sorrow. But the differences are shades of gray, not black versus white." Nurturing feels good to us, Bekoff says, so why wouldn't it feel good across species? (p xi)
If you read some of Jane Goodall's work, you'll see that she's not afraid to tackle this subject. There are also many recent stories of animals forming bonds, most recently, sperm whales seemingly 'adopting' a malformed bottlenose dolphin.
Having said all that about what is essentially a book of cute photographs and short paragraphs, I will mention that some of the "friendships" that they showcase in this book aren't really friendships. This review does a pretty good job of explaining some of the liberties the book takes with defining friendship.
Overall, though, this is a definitely a feel-good book, full of adorable photos, perfect for a pick-me-up if you're feeling down.(less)