Dec 2, 2014

Through the Eyes of the Gods

by Robert B. Haas
An Aerial View of Africa

Photography from the air. Stunning spreads of imagery captured from a small low-flying aircraft. Revealing patterns of the landscape, wrinkles in rolling hills and sand dunes, spreading fingers from volcanic islands, weaving threads of ancient animal trails and pathways. The sinuous lines of riverbeds, the undulating shapes of coral reefs, the movement of herds. Human activity is pictured here too- scattering of huts, pockmarks of dying pits at a riverside, lines of fruit trays or conical heaps of salt dotting an area, snaky curves of fish traps- but mostly it is an image of the soul of the land, of its soil and flora, of the animal life moving in and out of view. I particularly noted the description of how a hunt is viewed so different from the air than from the ground- instead of a close focus on individuals you get a picture of the herd movement responding to the pressure of the predator. The author's musings on the land and its wildlife make for thoughtful, poetic reading. My favorite passage was about how deeply mesmerizing it can be to sit and watch the ocean waves or a flickering fire. There are also some writings on the conundrum of dealing with officials in Africa (moving through airports, trying to extend his stay, avoiding exploitation from pilots and so on) and the technical challenges involved in aerial photography.

I've had my eye on this volume for a long time. It has been high up on a display shelf behind the information counter at my public library for ages. Every time I walked by, I glanced at it and wondered what it contained. Now I know. It's the kind of book you really want to linger over.

Rating: 4/5          208 pages, 2005

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