Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Earth from the Air for Children

The Earth from the Air for Children
Concept & Photographs: Yann Arthus-Bertrand
Text: Robert Burleigh
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Ages: All

Eight summers back, when we lived in London, we went to an open-air exhibition of giant-sized photographs at the Natural History Museum. The display was called 'Earth From Above'. To say that it was stunning would be an absolute understatement. Yann Arthus-Betrand, a French aerial photographer and environmentalist spent ten years on this UNESCO-sponsored project and of the thousands of photographs taken from helicopters and hot air balloons, the best views of the planet were culled and blown up into large format versions (2.5m*1.5 m). The free exhibition has travelled to more than a hundred cities and seen by millions of people, including folks in Mumbai late last year.

The photographs have been collected in a beautiful coffee table book called Earth from the Air. It has more than two hundred pictures each of which is accompanied by a narrative that tells us about the subject and also goes beyond the surface to highlight relevant features and issues. The book is clearly not a series of photographs, you can sense the creator's desire to draw attention to the fact that the Earth, our home, needs more than just our applause. His passion is of one who truly appreciates the richness of the planet and therefore cannot bear to see it being ruined.

We spent many hours poring closely at the pictures in the book, fascinated by the extraordinary compositions. Some years later I found that there was a version called The Earth from the Air for Children and of course had to get it. My (then) 4-year old loved the endless possibilities of discovering details in the pictures. For a while it became my favourite birthday gift item and many of my friends' kids have a copy - you know thanks to whom. She has grown older and now enjoys the original big book version as well. The baby version has reappeared recently in our book shelf and is much-loved by the pre-schooler residing currently in these parts.

The Earth from the Air for Children is introduced by Jim, Arthus-Bertrand's 8-year old godson. He tells the reader how the pictures were taken by his godfather - from a helicopter, and how exciting his journeys into the sky are. We are then taken on a fascinating trip via thirty carefully chosen photographs - for example, we see bird's eye views of elephants crossing a stream in Botswana, a flock of scarlet ibis in Venezuela, a camel caravan and its shadows across the sands in a desert in Niger, penguins preparing to plunge in icy waters from an iceberg in Antarctica, a volcano blowing its top in La Reunion (an island east of Madagascar), a hot spring in Yellowstone in the US and a whale in the deep waters off Argentina. We also see snapshots of human activity - a family sorting out dates in Egypt, a group of farmers moving their produce across a river in Mali, a tugboat hauling logs on the Amazon river in Brazil, a beautiful patchwork pattern formed by carpets laid out for sale in Morocco and many more. Each double-page spread is accompanied by an interesting account of what is in the picture - at a level palatable to the child reader, along with its location on the globe and a water-colour illustration by David Giraudon depicting yet another facet of the story.

The pictures bring a unique perspective to the mind-bloggling diversity on Earth, compelling us to sit up and take notice of its splendour and perhaps gently persuading us to treat it with a little more care and  respect. A fitting tribute to our beautiful planet.

Image Courtesy


sandhya said...

Where do I find this?

Uma said...

I need a few copies - I know afew who would love this!
Sandhya - saw this on Flipkart

the mad momma said...

you know, i feel rather cheated. where was all this when i was growing up? i'd have had a different attitude towards studies!

Vibha said...

I agree MM, I feel the same. Chox, where can I get this book from ?

Thanks for introducing such a gem :)

Playing by the book said...

I wonder if I walked past you at the original exhibition outside the natural history museum! I love the sound of the kids' version and I can see why it's become a favourite gift to give - I might just borrow that idea, starting with giving it to me and my kids!

sathish said...

Yves photos had come to Bangalore too I think - courtesy Alliance Francais.
But, I missed it.

Choxbox said...

Sandhya: As Uma says, flipkart has it.

Uma: Will you believe this - I have bought a total of 16 copies of the book! Practically every one of my kid's friends have it and it is universally liked.

MM: Totally :) These days textbooks are just one of the many resources kids have access to. They are blessed.

Vibha: My pleasure! Flipkart!

PbtB: Did you?!! We'd gone again several times when it was displayed in South Bank and any visitors from India/US who came in that period were dragged off to see the exhibition :)

Sathish: Mumbai I knew of - it was part of the Bonjour France festival. Bangalore - I'm not sure.. bt hey if it does ever come here, do let me know okay?!

Sheela said...

How wonderful, Choxbox! Echoing the mad momma... learning is so much fun when filled with a sense of wonder and discovery - and this is one book that's going on my wishlist.

Praba Ram said...

Incredible! The book sure sounds like a collector's item. Wonderful photography based coffee table books can be very inspiring indeed! :)

Sunita said...

I have seen that picture of the earth in a poster gallery covering an entire wall. It looked awesome and I kept wondering if it would do justice on a wall in the drawing room.

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