Monday, December 13, 2010

The Persistence of Paradise: Archipelago by Littschwager and Middleton

Back here with another book post.  The book ideas just keep presenting themselves to me, the ones seem to generate yet others.   

This week's book is by David Littschwager and Susan Middleton, published by National Geographic already a couple of years ago.  But it's one of those perennials, that will never go out of style.  In fact this book and its contents will likely seem increasingly precious as the years go on.

The photographers/authors, David Littschwager and Susan Middleton trained early in their careers as assistants to the great Richard Avedon.  Here's a little background on how they came to specialize in the portraiture of the natural world.  And become champions of bio-diversity.  A previous book of theirs on a closely related subject (and obviously dear to my heart) was Remains of a Rainbow about Hawaiian Island flora and fauna. 

The photographs in this post are of the denizens of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, the world's largest environmentally protected area in the far Northwest reaches of the Hawaiian islands.  This article in Hawaiian Airlines' excellent In-flight magazine, Hana Hou, gives the history of how this area became first a protected site, and eventually this year, received designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site.   Access to the area remains limited as it consists primarily of fragile treeless atolls lying in the Pacific Ocean.  

A tragic Postscript to the work carried out on the region and presented in the book, is the story of this Shedbird "chick" who came into the world early in the photographers' visit and grew to not-quite-full maturity during their stay. He sadly passed away suddenly one day, and this is what a member of the team found when she decided to do a necropsy:

The fledgling, not even fully grown,

had a gut so over-full of the items above, that it could no longer accommodate real food.  It died ultimately of starvation.


  1. Magnifique et terrifiante façon de découvrir le monde... Merci aussi pour les liens, très intéressants aussi.

  2. That is just too harsh... what brilliant exposure MP!
    fascinating post and gut-wrenching!
    S x

  3. At first I was so happy and excited by the color and forms of the fish/ aquatic life, then...I was both horrified and seduced by the contents of the poor birds stomach. I think it is the arrangement of the items in the circle. Feels like a found object sculpture.

    Such a sad commentary.

  4. Wow. The photos are stunning and the story staggering. :-( Poor bird.

  5. A wonderful looking book - another I need to get my hands on!
    It doesn't seem right at all that the contents of the dead bird's stomach should look so beautiful laid out like that. It brings to mind the wonderful colour work of Finnish artist Anu Tuominen, yet is so, so sad...