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Poles Apart: Parallel Visions of the Arctic and Antarctice

Poles Apart: Parallel Visions of the Arctic and Antarctic. Galen Rowell. Mountain Light Press, Berkeley, California, 1995. 184 pages, profusely illustrated in color. $39.95.

We expect the best from Galen Rowell and this is no exception. Some consider him Ansel Adams in color. His book My Tibet (1990) showed that he can write beautiful and sensitive prose as well. Rowell has been everywhere and brought back magnificent pictures of what he saw and what he felt.

Poles Apart shows similar or starkly contrasting scenes from each polar region on facing pages. In Antarctica mountains and wildlife are featured; in the Arctic there is little life and fiercely rugged ice and snow dominate. Rowell has a sense of humor and of irony which subtly shines through here and there. Terse captions do not detract from the artistry.

Rather than placing the essays near the pictures as in his other books, Rowell devotes a long section to detailed comments on every picture: Why he took it, what it means to him, and the technical aspects of speed, aperture, film, time and positioning. It’s obvious that almost every one of the pictures was carefully planned and often took many hours (even days) to take.

It’s a superb and beautiful book for everyone who loves the outdoor world and treasures reflections of it.

Charles S. Houston, M.D.