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Kirstenbosch - beyond words

Kirstenbosch - beyond words

Kirstenbosch beyond words is a magnificent book with the most exquisite photographs
Steinman, Harris
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Kirstenbosch - beyond words

Photographer: Harris Steinman
Briza Publications
Pretoria, 2007
ISBN 978-1-875093-85-4
Soft cover, 21x26 cm, 96 pages, throughout colour photos

Kirstenbosch - beyond words Bezaubernde Detailfotografien, die das eigentümliche Wesen vieler Pflanzen des Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden hervorheben.


Description:

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town, South Africa is situated in the Cape Floristic Region.

The smallest of the world's six 'floral kingdoms', this region is the most richly endowed for its size:

It has almost 9,000 plant species, of which more than 6,000 are found nowhere else on earth.

The region was proclaimed a World Heritage Site in 2004 and comprises eight protected areas in the Western Cape, one of which includes Kirstenbosch.

With its unique setting on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain and its constantly changing atmosphere, Kirstenbosch has always had a very powerful attraction for Harris Steinman, who has visited it regularly in all seasons to photograph its flora.

He did this without a book in mind, but the people who saw his images were so moved and excited by them that they urged him to consider publication.

They reacted in this way because his pictures are not conventional studies of the kind one finds in most botanical or horticultural publications, but highly evocative and compelling close-up images that reveal aspects of the plants most viewers had never noticed before.

This is essentially a photographic book: apart from the foreword, preface and introduction, the text consists entirely of short captions that identify the plants depicted.

In his preface the photographer says: „I have no idea how the images came about – I did not follow a predetermined plan or formula but over a period of several years responded subjectively to the visual impressions offered to me in Kirstenbosch:

To the interplay between light and shade, to plant shape and structure, to colour, pattern and texture, and to the elegance, delicacy and tranquility of the subjects.“

By revealing such highly unusual aspects of the flora of Kirstenbosch, the photographs in this book will encourage visitors to linger in the garden, to take time to appreciate the finer details of its plants, and in the process to savour once again the astonishing artistry of nature that is, indeed, beyond words.


About the photographer:

Harris Steinman, a medical doctor based in Cape Town, has a special interest in allergy and allergens and has written a number of reference books on the subject. A keen photographer since his teenage years, he is largely self-taught but studied photography at the Ruth Prowse School of Art, where his teachers included Alain Proust and Anthony Johnson, initially he worked in black and white but later switched to colour slides and was an early convert to digital photography. He is interested in a wide range of photographic subjects but is particularly attracted to landscapes and flora.

Connie de la Vega teaches an international human rights law class and clinic and the American Legal Systems class for the Masters of Law programme for foreign students at the University of San Francisco School of Law in California. She has written extensively on international human rights and a book by her on the subject is forthcoming. A regular visitor to South Africa, she has given lectures at the University of Cape Town and the University of Pretoria.


Foreword:

KIRSTENBOSCH IS TRULY A GARDEN APART. All who have visited it, at any season, in any weather, cannot but be profoundly moved by its all-embracing beauty, tranquillity and presence.

South Africa is unusually endowed with floral treasures, spectacular landscapes and wild animals. We are indeed fortunate that much of this natural wealth has been secured for future generations within our numerous national parks and national botanical gardens.

Despite the demands of often more pressing socio-economic priorities, successive governments have provided increasing support to our network of protected areas. The South African National Biodiversity Institute, which has its origins in the first national botanical garden established at Kirstenbosch in 1913, has a broad mandate from Parliament to promote the appreciation, conservation and sustainable use of our biodiversity.

Communicating the richness of the diversity of living things, of South Africa's extraordinarily wonderful Cape Floristic Region, its fynbos and forest, is a task that many a photographer has embarked upon, but few have met with such success as this photographic essay by Harris Steinman.

Five hundred years ago, Albrecht Dürer recorded the intimate details of a field of wild flowers, as might have been witnessed by a passing ant. Harris Steinman has brought us this closeness, his images revealing the diverse structure, pattern, colour, shape and delicacy of nature.

Far too often we wander through Kirstenbosch at a pace that leaves no chance to examine the individual leaves, flowers, stamens, thorns or subtle colours of the garden's five thousand species of indigenous flora.

This elegant selection of fine photographic portraits allows us the opportunity to reflect on what we might have rushed past, perhaps, in order to reach our destination, without savouring every step of the journey through Kirstenbosch.

For those who might need an incentive to move more slowly through the garden, to 'see more, talk less' as invoked by Bernard Takawira's great stone sculpture at the upper entrance to the garden, this volume is the perfect catalyst.

Brian J. Huntley
Chief Executive South African National Biodiversity Institute