Still Life : inside the Antarctic Huts of Scott and Shackleton by Jane Ussher is a gem of a book.
New Zealand photographer Jane Ussher was allowed to photograph the huts of Antarctic explorers Scott and Shackelton, a privilege rarely accorded.
A tactile experience from the moment you touch the book, the cover is made of hessian-like material, with muddy and muted colours. When you delve inside, the colour palette is mostly restricted to cool tones of brown, blue and white.
The uniqueness of this remote location and the history of these buildings is evident in every shot. I was fascinated by the intimacy of the photographs , from clothing still on hooks, to shaving brushes, to pictures of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, to unopened bottles of food on the bench.
To hear Jane Ussher talk about her experiences of being in Antarctica to shoot the images for this book, you can go to lunch on Sunday 7 November at Baillies Bar, Christchurch.
Parihaka was a Taranaki settlement. In the 1870s, it was the largest Māori village in New Zealand. This self-sufficient community was led by two prophets — Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi.
On 5 November 1881, it was invaded by militia and armed constabulary. The forces were greeted by peaceful residents who did not resist either invasion or arrest.
Over the next two weeks, the army demolished the settlement and eventually all crops and livestock were destroyed.
Our page on Parihaka details some of the key resources about this sad event — and the surprising Christchurch connection.
With all this talk of ebooks, there is one type of book I really don’t think should be digitised – the picture book. Sure, there are magnificent things you can do with a picture book in digital form, including making each page interactive, but what’s the difference between that and a computer game? There are three recent picture books that illustrate this point really well.
- It’s a Book by Lane Smith is a manifesto on behalf of print in the digital age. Donkey sees Monkey reading a book and asks what it can do – “Can it text? Blog? Scroll? Wi-fi? Tweet?” and Monkey’s answer to all of these questions is “No. It’s a book.” My favourite part is when Donkey decides that Treasure Island has too many letters and changes it into text language. Definitely one book that shouldn’t ever be an ebook.
- There are no cats in this book by Viviane Schwarz is the hilarious follow-up to There are cats in this book. The cats in the book, Tiny, Moonpie and André, want to go out and see the world, but they need a bit of help from the reader. There are flaps to open, a postcard to read, and the cats actually jump off the page, so the fun of this book would be lost in digital form. If you like Mo Willems’ Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, you’ll love this book.
- The Legend of the Golden Snail is the latest stunning picture book from Graeme Base. Although not as detailed as his earlier books, Golden Snail is a real puzzle of a book. Wilbur decides to go on a voyage to find the Golden Snail, a legendary sailing ship from his favourite book. You’re taken along on the journey with Wilbur and you have to find the snail n’ crossbones on each beautifully illustrated page. The illustrations are big and vibrant, something that would be lost on a small eReader screen or iPad.
Long live picture books with their pop-ups, flaps, and big, beautiful illustrations.