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Untamed - Steve Bloom



Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

JUST WHEN you thought wildlife portfolios couldn't get any better, along comes Untamed from award-winning wildlife photographer, Steve Bloom.

But is another book on a subject that's already been done a hundred times or more, really necessary? The answer, it would seem, is yes, particularly where Bloom is concerned - and I'm not talking finances.

For, essentially, his aim is to draw attention to the fragility of Earth's ecosystems; to increase awareness of the dependency all living creatures (man included) have upon one another, and to demonstrate the similarity, in terms of experience and suffering, between man and the creatures that surround him.

So, can pictures in a book do all that and thereby open our eyes to the importance of saving the enviroment and, ultimately, of safeguarding the future of life, as we know it, on Earth?

Hopefully, the answer is again yes. For above all, Bloom's stunning images show just how beautiful these creatures are - even if you're a chinstrap penguin chick, soiled by tobogganing on your belly on muddy ground.

But not only that, they clearly confirm the depth of feeling that exists between mother and young; the struggle for survival, often in hostile enviroments and, supported by Bloom's own text, a knowledge of health care that will amaze.

On a darker note, however, they demonstrate all too well that man alone does not have a monopoly on gratuitous violence - illustrated by a pride of young lions ganging up on a defenceless, juvenile hippo; not as you would expect, for food, for they weren't hungry and simply left him to die.

The image of the attack is there for all to see and Bloom, himself, witnessed the entire incident.

The project was a huge undertaking and took ten years to complete. Not surprisingly, the book itself is big, but justifiably so, for images as good as these deserve to be well presented. And that they most certainly are - frequently in double-page spreads and gatefolds.

As for the quality of the images, all 200 of them, it's just possible that their authenticity might be questioned in this age of manipulative digital photography.

Bloom did, in fact, use a digital camera for the last 18 months of the shoot and when questioned about criticism of the technique in Photography Monthly magazine, explained:

'Most of what I do is controlling the tone and lightening and darkening and drawing the eye into the picture' which is 'very different from doing something like, say, taking an elephant in the zoo and dropping it into a picture of the alps.'

And he makes no apology for concentrating 'too much' on popular species, such as polar bears and elephants.

As he told Photography Monthly: "I approached the project as an artist. I felt I could produce the best pictures of things that moved me aesthetically, and that was what motivated me to include the subjects that I have."

The result is this beautiful book with the added impetus of an important message for mankind. Unheeded, images such as these will be all that remain.

 

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