The New Earth From Above: 365 Days, by Yann Arthus-Bertrand

New Earth From Above by Yann Arthus-Bertrand: Book CoverFinished 10-18-09, rating 4.5/5, Natural History, pub. 2007

This outstanding book is part photography and part environmental lesson.  At the beginning of each month there is an essay written about major issues for the planet.  They include: sustainable development, climate change, forests, biodiversity, seas and oceans, freshwater, agroecology, renewable energy, mobility and equity, poverty, humanitarian work, and free trade.  These are long enough to learn something, but not too long that you stop reading and skip to the photos.

The 365 photos are amazing.  They are all shot from above (shocking given the title, I know) and so many look otherworldly.  I cannot say enough how much I loved these photos, some showcasing the natural beauty of our planet and a few showing the harsh pressure our actions place on the Earth.  The photo on the cover is from Montana.

With each photo is a description that usually involves history, statistics, and some reality for those of us in the United States.  For instance, did you know that 40% of felled trees go to the manufacture of paper?  That’s hard to read for a book lover! 

This book is not for the person who wants to live life ignoring his or her place in the world.  It was shocking, beautiful, and easy to appreciate.  I read a month at a time,  it took me a few weeks and I loved it.  There will quite a few friends who will be receiving this for Christmas!  There are several different editions, this was a second version published in 2007 and there was a new one published in 2009.  I plan on getting that one too.

My one and only complaint was that so many of pictures were of France.  The photographer is French, so it is understandable, but of the 365 photos taken of countries all over the world, 32 of them were of France.  I’m okay with the United States not getting extra just because we expect it, and it did not detract from the importance of the book, but maybe the next one will pick another favorite country.

This was a library copy.

Finding Grace: The Face of America’s Homeless, photographer Lynn Blodgett

The Face of America's HomelessFinished 9-26-08, rating 3/5, photography, pub. 2007

This is a coffee table book with a social conscience attached.  Blodgett went around the country to a dozen different cities and visited homeless shelters so he could photograph the people who used them to survive.  The photographs are all in black and white and he lets the photos alone tell the story.  I felt that he could have included more details about the people.  The photographs compelled me to want to know more, which may be the point, but it was a little unsatisfying.

The forward had some interesting statistics about the homeless (I wish I could include them, but I’ve lost the paper I wrote them down on) and it was heartbreaking to read how many are children, families, and women escaping abusive relationships.

I think this book is perfectly timed.  With the current forclosure rates and the state of our ecnomy as a whole, I think only more of our fellow citizens will be joining the plight of the homeless. 

This is not a book to lift your spirits or rattle of numbers and stories about the homeless.  This is a book to look into the faces of the forgotten, to appreciate what you have, and then to question how you might be able to help those people who need it.

This would probably be a great gift for photographers.