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  • Posted February 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer


    You may think you know what an animal looks like but, really, you don't until you study these amazing photographs by Henry Hortenstein. A photographer, author, and teacher for some 35 years, he is an acknowledged master of each of these fields. Rather than a traditional photo that we often see - an animal captured in its colorful habitat, Hortenstein calls our attention to detail in 64 duotone photographs. It is as if we were looking at an Asian elephant's foot or a giraffe's legs or a crane's neck through a magnifying glass. Elisabeth Werby, Executive Director, Harvard Museum of Natural History, says it best in her informative forward: 'His pictures challenge us to look more closely, to ask questions and make connections. We think about form and function the relationship between an elephant's foot, a horse's hoof, and our own toes.........Examining these photographs, we become scientists and discoverers.' This remarkable volume holds not only the best of Hortenstein's work focusing on the images of animals but also 35 unpublished images. It is a book we find ourselves returning to again and again, to marvel and to wonder. Highly recommended. - Gail Cooke

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  • Posted January 22, 2009

    photography seeing animals in a new light

    Horenstein takes photographs of animals, but he is not a naturalist. The photographs were taken in zoos and aquariums. While one might think this would give them a certain 'staged' quality or limitation, an artificiality or familiarity as photographs, this is not the case--far from it. The photographs were exhibited (through June 2008) at the Harvard Museum of Natural History as a part of its 'lessons in looking' project. This project aimed at being provocative and 'chang[ing] the frame' of viewers' experiences with nature photography as the Museum's Director Elisabeth Werby explains in her Foreword. Horenstein's 64 duotone photographs of animals--actually mostly parts of animals--patently work toward this end. This skilled, imaginative, idiosyncratic photographer focuses sharply on a specific part, or a detail, of an animal. Such sharp focus--as in some photographs by Edward Weston, for example--leaves the subject so that the viewer does not easily recognize it. Horenstein does not go this far, however. His aim is not to demonstrate the power of the camera to microscopically hone in on a subject in such a way that one cannot recognize it but rather to enlarge the viewer's awareness of and connection with his subjects of animals. The photographs are a kind of synecdoche. The parts of an animal Horenstein focuses on are usually ones the viewer associates with it from seeing many ordinary photographs or films of it or from school classes in the world of nature. The viewer knows an octopus from a tentacle lined with suction cups an Emperor penguin from its elongated white belly a dolphin from its sleek, bulbous shape. Horenstein is patient, too. Since 'you can't tell an elephant where to stand [or] ask a skate to must be very patient and wait' for the opportunity to take a good picture, he tells in his Photographer's Note. But there's more than simply waiting for the right moment. The photographer achieves his extraordinary effects by using macro lenses and by working with grainy, black-and-white film, then developing it in sepia to give it 'an old school, timeless feel.' It works: The combination of photographs which are at once familiar and challenging and technicalities of film and development used make a unique, lingering impression. It is unlikely most viewers will see the animals in Horenstein's photographs ever again without seeing them or thinking about them in some respect as they were led to see and consider them with these photographs.

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