Book Review| Volume 12, ISSUE 3, P218, September 2001

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Bradford Washburn Mountain Photography

      The old adage of not judging a book by its cover clearly does not apply to Bradford Washburn Mountain Photography. The back cover quotes Ansel Adams’ description of Washburn as a “roving genius of mind and mountains,” which further intrigues one to open the spectacular cover.
      Inside, one finds a fascinating introduction by the curator of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Bradford Washburn is a renowned mountaineer, scientist, and cartographer who used aerial photography in his scientific studies. He was also a pilot, as well as a pioneer in the fields of aerial photography, wireless communication, cold-weather search-and-rescue, and cold-weather survival. He produced award-winning maps, including those of Mount Everest, Mount McKinley, and the Grand Canyon.
      The editor and compiler, Antony Decaneus, provides us with insightful interviews from conversations with Bradford Washburn conducted over a 4-year period. This enhances our appreciation of the 100 large-format photographs that follow. Amazingly, Bradford Washburn has numerically filed and catalogued more than 15 000 large-format negatives, as well as collecting countless color slides.
      The selected collection of black-and-white photographs is an indescribable sensory treat. Washburn captures the near mystical interplay of clouds and mountains again and again. He also exposes the abstract art expressions of glaciers and moraines. Light and shadow are delicately used to dramatically highlight the magnificent beauty found in and around the special world of mountains. He is obviously an artist as well as a scientist. The book concludes with an 11-page illustrated chronology of his legendary career.
      All those who love mountains or art will enjoy this book. From this reviewer's perspective, the only thing lacking is more extensive biographical information about this unique photographer. Alas, my curiosity about the historical significance and scientific implications portrayed by the photographs was not sated. An expanded or supplemented edition would be an additional treat that could only enhance one's appreciation of both Bradford Washburn and his photographic material.