Exploring the people, landscapes and animals of Africa

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British-born wildlife, natural history and travel photographer Gerald Cubitt has been published widely internationally and has authored a number of photographic collections on a variety of countries and regions

In his latest photographic collection Evocative Africa, he takes the reader on a journey through sub-Saharan Africa, exploring the people, animals and landscapes that make up this diverse region.

Cubitt’s images are presented alongside text by Benni Hotz who was also responsible for the design of the book.

The primary difficulty with this book is its ambiguity of genre. At first glance it feels like an illustrated encyclopedia. Numerous images scatter the pages, each methodically captioned amid the explanatory text on each region. Words compete with images, resulting in a poor showcase of both.

Equally so, as a reference book the collection falls short. Information is sourced from Wikipedia’s “consistently succinct detailed articles”, and with up to 12 images on a page, one cannot help but feel as though you’re playing match-maker against the list of verbose captions. The images seem intended to illustrate the captions as opposed to the reverse.

Overall, the book covers such a wide variety of subjects that no central narrative is present. From flora to fauna, portraits to wildlife, landscapes to aerial images, the sheer multitude of images distracts from the impact of those that are masterfully composed and beautifully used. The subject matter of the images is dominated by the rural exotic Africa, adding to, rather than challenging colonial stereotypes of the continent.

Cubitt’s images do, however, make a valuable contribution in documenting and classifying the diverse natural resources of sub-Saharan Africa. The exploration of Madagascar’s diverse animal and floral kingdom is especially powerful and an important collection of images for anyone with a particular interest in the island.

“Even the landscapes are other-worldly; in the south the eerie spiny bush forest is dominated by peculiar euphorbias and populated by creatures whose ecology is still poorly understood.”

Cubitt achieves a particularly admirable intimacy in his photographs of wildlife. A lioness responds to the affectionate gestures of her cubs in the Kruger National Park. An enormous bull elephant is silhouetted against a dramatic backdrop of the setting sun over the waters of Lake Kariba.

Gerald Cubitt’s Evocative Africa is a visual journey through sub-Saharan Africa that offers a wide array of images that document a diverse and exciting region. However, the difficulties encountered by the layout, and the imbalance between text and images reduce the impact of those powerful and moving images within the collection. - The Argus

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