The Natural World
A monumental new selection of panoramic photographs by Thomas D. Mangelsen vividly evokes the wild spirit — and the irreplaceable riches — of our natural world.
This soulful, eye-opening, altogether sumptuous triumph of a book is monumental in size and in spirit.
First, the size: Thomas D. Mangelsen shoots with a Fuji 617 panoramic camera; to best accommodate the horizontal panoramas that have become his signature, the book measures a massive 19 inches wide and 11 inches tall. The sheer scope of the resulting photos is impressive and absorbing.
Which brings us to the equally panoramic spirit of the work. Mangelsen’s eye and art celebrate nature with a deep-rooted combination of delight, understanding, and reverence. Whether he is photographing wildlife such as tigers, bears, eagles, and flamingos in nature, or just the wild life inherent in a landscape, Mangelsen manages to capture and evoke the breathing soul of every scene. His photos are like real-world portals that I feel I can walk into, portraying the world’s wild places – from Alaska to the Serengeti, Antarctica to the Namib Desert, Yellowstone to Bandhavgarh – with a precise and tactile reality. Paging through this book, more than once I instinctively mind-jumped at an image that seemed for a fraction of a moment to bring a lion or a grizzly into my living room.
The learned and loving Foreword by Jane Goodall signals these qualities and one more attribute of Mangelsen’s work: the painterly sense of composition that he brings to his sweeping scenes. Mangelsen acknowledges that artistic connection in his own Introduction, citing Andrew Wyeth’s paintings as a decisive influence on his evolution, along with the photographs of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Ernst Haas, Elliot Porter and Dorothea Lange.
All of these influences are apparent in his work, but what is most striking to me is the way that Mangelsen has embraced and appropriated the gifts of these masters and directed them at his world – those wild nature-scapes – with singular passion, energy, talent and heart.
In his Introduction, Mangelsen writes, “This book is a personal selection of images from those places and species that have touched me deeply and changed my life.” These words resonate, for this gallery of places and species touches me deeply too. If you let yourself get gloriously lost in its pages, as I have, you’ll return seeing -- and appreciating – the planet’s intricate individualities and connections in a new way. And you’ll share with Mangelsen the fervent, fundamental conviction that we must all cherish and preserve these irreplaceable riches of our natural world.
[The Natural World, photographs and text by Thomas D. Mangelsen, Foreword by Jane Goodall; published by Channel Photographics; hardcover; 256 pages; $75.]
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