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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Eric Meola - Last Places On Earth

Eric Meola's highly personal book project is the result of a photographic odyssey that began long before digital cameras came on the scene.

Last Places On Earth In the summer of 1962…my father decided to teach me Latin,” writes photographer Eric Meola in the preface of his new book, The Last Places On Earth (November 2004, Graphis Press). “All through June, July and August I repeated conjugations, my mind numbed by the drone of my father's voice. And then one day, a respite. A movie had come out called “Lawrence of Arabia,” and as my father talked of the Turks and the Ottoman Empire I knew I would have one afternoon to myself, to dream, to let my mind wander….”

“In that afternoon…my father, a doctor, lost any chance of my following in his footsteps…it was burned into my mind I wanted to be a photographer. Thirty years after David Lean first took me across the Sahara, I was going there, five years before the World Trade Center Towers fell in New York, I was going there.”

I've been fortunate to share a friendship with Meola for more than a decade. We first met at The Image Bank (TIB), where he was one of the last photographers to be wooed by TIB before it became Getty Images. I had known him by reputation previously; he was an enormously successful advertising photographer mentored by the iconic color master, Pete Turner. Born in upstate New York, Meola attended Syracuse University, studied photography and English literature, and dramatically emerged as a commercial success under the guidance of mega-photography agents, Stockland/Martel. Meola and his wife, photographer, Joanna McCarthy, live in New York City.

Back then, there were no signs that within five years Meola would put his career on hold and commit himself to the personal project that would ultimately become The Last Places On Earth. The result: A revealing collection of portraits and landscapes that explores the vanishing physical and spiritual beauty of various cultures and wildlife in the world's most remote places, from New Guinea to Burma, Africa to India, and far beyond.

The Beginnings Of An Idea

I like to think that some of the first steps of Meola's journey for The Last Places On Earth were taken during a telephone conversation between the two of us almost 10 years ago. He was creatively restless, and I asked him what he would photograph, where he would go, if he could choose anything, anyplace in the world. He certainly didn't say he wanted to go to the last places on earth, but he did begin to think about self-assigning a personal project to take him down roads less traveled and point him in creative directions he hadn't previously explored.


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