Book Review: Arctic the Best Photographs – 2013

My fourth book review for 2015 is Arctic The Best Photographs. Arctic the Best Photographs is a publication of the winning, runner up and highly commended photographs from the 2013 Russian Global Arctic Awards Photographic competition.5cd8cba1efcef904bc1f5439b1d16294Arctic the Best Photographs is therefore a collection of photographers work (90 different photographers) that was judged to be the best from the 2013 Global Arctic Awards. As such, there is a broad diversity of work throughout the book from many different photographers and the genres range from wildlife to landscape, people, travel and more.  I found this diversification of work to be an enjoyable experience as it really showcases how many different aspects there are to life in the Arctic. If you value photography from the Arctic regions you will certainly find many images that will appeal to you. As you would expect for a “Russian photographic publication” the included text is presented in Russian as the first language and the English translation supplied next to it.

With a shelf price of 35 Euro Arctic the Best Photographs isn’t exactly inexpensive, but on the other hand no quality photographic book ever is and the pricing is commensurate with similar publications. Just as an aside, freight to Australia for Arctic the Best Photographs was considerable at more than twenty Euros making the cost of ownership higher than would perhaps be expected. First world problems…

Presentation: Arctic the Best Photographs is hardbound in a nice clean glossy finish with de-bossed silver text on the cover (there is no dust jacket). Consisting of approximately 160 pages in an almost square (26cm x 24 cm) format there is a large amount of material enclosed and as such the book is quite hefty for its size. The choice of square format for this publication was a clever decision that gives equal billing to both portrait and horizontal images. The paper is a medium weight semi-gloss lustre that is satisfactory; if somewhat lacking to some of the finer papers found in higher quality publications. Although, I personally prefer art papers to lustre papers the choice of paper in Arctic the Best Photographs is suitably chosen and appropriate for the imagery.  I like the inclusion of matching end papers that increase the overall quality of the presentation. Most of the included photographs are printed with a white paper border to help frame and contain the image and keep the eye from running off the page. There are a few full bleed images included and I felt these detracted from the rest of the presentation. Whilst I appreciate the use of the occasional full bleed image to help break up a book I do feel that their use really takes away from the images that receive this treatment. Otherwise the layout is pleasing with each photograph receiving its warranted billing. Each photograph is titled with the image title, photographers name and the location of where the photograph was taken (in both Russian and English). Overall the presentation is satisfactory, but falls short of excellence.

Print Quality: The 2014 Canon APPA Gold awards book I reviewed earlier this year remains the gold standard in print quality that surpasses anything I have yet seen from an offset printer. Arctic the Best Photographs unfortunately falls more than a little short of this benchmark with quality that can perhaps best be described as average. As you would expect of a book that encompasses the best photographs of the Arctic, many of them were shot in superb light and its unfortunate that this has not translated well in print. The print quality is better than I have seen from many self publish books, but is definitely not representative of the best it can be. I am always left somewhat disappointed when I am looking at fantastic photographs that are poorly printed – it really detracts from the overall experience and leaves me unfulfilled. Just as an aside Arctic the Best Photographs was printed in Latvia. I have several other books I purchased recently also printed in Latvia and they range in quality from quite good, to mediocre. Arctic the Best Photographs unfortunately falls in the mediocre camp.

Conclusion: Arctic the Best Photographs is a solid two star presentation of the best photographs from the 2013 Global Arctic Awards. The photographs contained therein are for the most part superb and on their own would rate much higher (although there is the odd cliché image that obviously still managed to woo the judges). I really wanted to give Arctic the Best Photographs more than two stars as there are so many fantastic photographs included in the book; however, the print quality really lets down the photographs and left me feeling somewhat short changed. Arctic the Best Photographs is a worthwhile addition to any photographic library that values photography from the Arctic regions. ** Consider buying this book if the subject matter appeals to you.

Footnote: Arctic the Best Photographs (2013) is now in limited supply and Arctic the Best Photographs (2014) appears to be already sold out.

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