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The High Himalaya, by Art Wolfe
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Contact: The Mountaineers
The High Himalaya<br />Art Wolfe
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The High Himalaya
Art Wolfe
The Mountaineers

The High Himalaya is not a climbing book per se. In spite of a forward by Norbu Tenzing Norgay and interviews with Himalayan mountaineers Reinhold Messner, Ed Viesturs and Doug Scott, with a single exception you won't find pictures of climbers, climbers on awesome walls, climbers slogging up snow slopes, climbers with mountains in the backgrounds, climbers in their tents, climbers on summits or generally the kinds of photographs you see gracing the pages of the climbing magazines and most mountaineering books.

What you will find is a book of extremely high-quality photographs of the Himalayas. Make no mistake, Art Wolfe is a master photographer, a peerless technician and he is a highly acclaimed and widely published nature photographer. But, his vision encompasses more than just peaks. He has a strong and deep interest in the areas surrounding the mountains and the people who inhabit them and this attachment to the humanity of these far-off lands is felt throughout the book.

Still, there are page after page of compelling images of these most amazing mountains. Of course there are the perfect shots of Everest, K2, Trango Tower and others, but there is so much more. One of my favorite mountain images is Moonset over Lintgren taken on the Tibetan-Nepalese border. It is a eerily compelling scene that I keep coming back to. In a completely different vein, but just as intriguing are Uighur man on a donkey cart taken in Kashgar, China and Cultivated Fields from an Askole village in Pakistan. Taken together they illustrate the different but totally complimentary sides of Art Wolfe, the photographer.

Peter Potterfield's interviews with Messner, Viesturs and Scott provide a superb compliment to the images. These are men whose affinity for these mountains are in close harmony with Wolfe's own. Doug Scott comments; "I began to notice that my interest in going back to the Himalaya was as much to be back with the people and the mountains as it was to climb." In their own way each of the others echo his sentiments.

The book is broken up into 3 sections containing an interview, a series of photographs and then the Photographer's Field Notes - a series of thumbnails of each image accompanied by technical information about each image. As I am an amateur photographer I found the latter quite appealing. I am always wondering about the details of the shots that catch my attention and these notes answered some of my questions.

Conclusion:  Yes this is rather large and expensive book, and yes in some ways it is overwhelming. That said, it is one of the most impressive books of Himalayan images I have ever seen. It deservedly won Best Book - Mountain Image at the 2001 Banff Book Awards. Kudos to Art Wolfe and The Mountaineers for setting a standard for mountain photography books that will be difficult, if not impossible, to top.

Details: 160 pp. color photos, hardcover

Al Hospers
November 2001

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