Alaska: 10th Anniversary Edition, by Art Wolfe, with text by Nick Jans
There is text in this book, at the beginning of every chapter, but the reader of this book would be forgiven for not realizing this immediately and for not paying much attention to this book. What is most notable about this book is the absolutely stunning photography. I must admit that I am not much of a photographer, and have never had the skill that others have in taking a camera and finding the world’s beauty with it and conveying it and framing it, but I can and do appreciate good photography from others and this book delivers in spades on that front. It cannot be emphasized enough that this book shows the full glory that is on display when looking at creation with great equipment and immense skill at photography. It is hard not to think of Alaska as beautiful, certainly when viewing photography like this, which is truly awe-inspiring. If the text of the book comes off as distinctly second-rate in comparison with the photography, that is something that is inherent in the structure of the book, which makes the photographer the author and merely notes the person who provided the inessential text of the work.
This book is a relatively short one at about 150 pages or so, although the pages are large ones and most of those pages are full of gorgeous and large photographs. This is a book that simply belongs on a coffee table for an appreciative reading audience of guests. I am not sure how many coffee tables have this book, but hopefully this book is appreciated wherever it happens to be. This book is divided into six chapters, each of them focusing on a different aspect of Alaska’s beauty. The first chapter focuses on Alaska’s stark and gorgeous mountains, including Denali (McKinley) and the coastal range. After that there is a chapter on Alaska’s rivers and lakes, including the fish in them. This is followed by a chapter that looks at Alaska’s tundra. Then there is a chapter that focuses on the sea and coastal areas of Alaska, of which there are many. This is followed by a chapter that contains lots of photographs of forests, again, something that Alaska has a lot of. Finally, the last chapter of the book looks at some of Alaska’s islands. Each chapter begins with some text before the main contents of the book, its photographs, are displayed.
In reading this book there is only one thing about this book that really bugged me. I’m not sure if this will bother everyone, but as a reader I was bothered by the fact that over and over again the photographer notes his photographs in captions in places that are not particularly accessible to people. The majority of this book is taken from photographs of a few places during a narrow range of time (mostly in the short Alaskan summer), and of those few places that get listed over and over again, the vast majority of them are national parks and refuges that are not very easily accessible to ordinary mere mortals like those people reading the book. Similarly, the book is not very detailed in terms of the exact places where the photos are being taken, so as to discourage people from seeking the same views from themselves. This is a great book, to be sure, but it’s a book that one would be hard pressed to replicate in terms of one’s own travels. Whether or not that bothers the reader is something that each reader of this book, and each traveler to Alaska, has to figure out for themselves.