Man’s best friends

Samantha Weinberg in The Economist:

EndStaring at us from the front cover of Tim Flach’s new book, knees clasped to his chest like a child on his first day at kindergarten, is a rare sifaka lemur. His fur – black on his head, with a cream body and rich auburn chest – looks irresistibly soft. We can make out every tiny detail, from the fine grain of his nose, to the cuticles on his fingernails. There is a distinctly worried look in his eyes, as if he is about to get punished for something he didn’t mean to do.

If this sounds anthropomorphic, it’s meant to. In the foreword to this extraordinary book, Flach, best known for his beautiful, stylised portraits of dogs and horses, quotes George Schaller, an eminent biologist: “Conservation is based on emotion. It comes from the heart and one should never forget that.” By creating portraits that emphasise animals’ personalities, Flach aims to bridge the “otherness” dividing them from humans, which he believes is essential to getting us to care about animals.

It’s also a wake-up call – but not for the obvious reasons. The first few photographs are followed by a double-page spread, black but for 16 words picked out in white: “The title of this book is ‘Endangered’, but the question is: to whom does this apply?” At first, this seems like a straightforward question. You leaf through the pages, all of them filled with exquisite photographs – some portraits, taken in a studio or set, others of creatures in their natural habitats – and read the brief, interleaved paragraphs. Each has a story to tell – of disappearing habitats, human encroachment, disease and poaching, as well as of efforts to conserve these fantastic beasts.

More here.