Follow Us on Twitter

Polar Obsession - Paul Nicklen

Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

FIFTEEN years ago, Paul Nicklen began his career as a wildlife biologist and photographer; his aim: to bridge the gap between scientific research and public knowledge on wildlife subjects and climate change.

As a result, he has travelled to some of the world’s most inhospitable, remote and challenging places – as his book Polar Obsession bears witness.

Not only a testament to his skill as a photographer, this beautiful book also reinforces his commitment to raise awareness of important issues such as conservation and global warming, subjects that are inextricably linked – whatever your views on global warming – as Nicklen himself explains in his engaging introduction.

In fact, throughout, Nicklen’s images are accompanied by a lively and informative text that is guaranteed to transport you from the comfort of your centrally heated home to the harsh environment of the polar regions. Take for example the water in which he dived – it was “an excruciating” minus 1.5 degrees centigrade “- as cold as seawater can get before it freezes solid.” Brrrr!!

And as good as his text undoubtedly is, it’s the photographs that make Polar Obsession so special. As well as polar landscapes, he has captured just about every species that inhabits these far-flung regions of our planet, so as well as the requisite polar bears and penguins, there are walrus, seals, arctic foxes, whales, narwhals, reindeer and a variety of birds.

This was made possible not only by Nicklen’s devotion to his art but also by his knowledge of wildlife behaviour. And it’s combining knowledge with approach that has made him privy to some extraordinary, never-before-seen animal behaviour – a female leopard seal attempting to feed him live penguins. And fascinating as it most certainly is, it also exposes the cruelties of life in the wild, something Nicklen isn’t afraid to illustrate.

By any standards, Polar Obsession is a beautiful book and if it also alerts us to the threat of global warming (whatever the cause), then so much the better. Without a doubt, this is one for the coffee table.