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Elephant! - Steve Bloom

Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

AS YOU would expect from the title, Elephant!, from acclaimed wildlife photographer Steve Bloom, is a book about elephants. But to coin a phrase, this is not just elephants, this is elephants as you’ve never seen them before.

To photograph these extraordinary creatures, the largest land mammals on the planet, Bloom travelled to many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, as well as to the Indian subcontinent, for the most part accompanied by local guides with insider knowledge of elephant behaviour.

And the results speak for themselves. Not only are the images beautiful to look at, they also tell us a great deal about the lives of these much persecuted animals – lives that in many ways, resemble our own.

For example, they have family structures just as we do and like us, they have individual personalities. Thus we see mothers tending their young – I particularly like the image of a young calf sheltering beneath its mother during a downpour – as well as indisputable evidence of ‘human’ traits – curiosity for instance, demonstrated by an inquisitive young calf examining a camera with his trunk.

And if that doesn’t convince you, there’s Bloom’s fascinating and thought-provoking text, backed up by 12 years of observation. For instance, did you know that elephants cry?

Bloom himself witnessed a baby elephant who, absorbed in play, became separated from his mother. In response to his wail of distress, she rushed to his side and quickly reassured him with her trunk, whereupon “he sobbed gently”. It’s such a familiar scenario, it’s almost uncanny. It also unashamedly tugs at the heart-strings.

But more of the images – after all, this is “a photographic journey into the animal kingdom” – they are nothing short of stunning. All 117 of them. In fact, it’s difficult to single out particular images for special mention although for originality, those of elephants swimming cannot be ignored. They are simply amazing.

And for those of you interested in customs, there’s a chapter dedicated to the Jaipur Elephant Festival which takes place each year in India.

Finally, Bloom takes time to share some of the secrets of his success behind the lens and believe me, it’s a success well earned. I mean, how would you fancy leaning as far out of a helicopter as your harness would allow just to get an image…..

This is, indeed, a lovely book – an absolute must if you like elephants and, if you’ve never really given them much thought, it could open up a whole new world. But more importantly, if you’re ‘into’ those little ivory trinkets, it should almost certainly make you think twice about purchasing another.

Also by Steve Bloom – Untamed. Read more