Book Review: Alberta - Images by Daryl Benson
© Jim Hutchison

Collecting coffee table books is fun for me. I get to see a particular artist's best work; their life's passion, their soul's expression - all there in a hard bound 90-page summary of their life. It's like movies these days. There's so many out there - some are duds, many are great entertainment, and some stand out more than others.



Occasionally though, something quite exceptional will jump out and grab me by the throat. Daryl's "Alberta" book (timed for the provinces' one hundred year anniversary) does just that. Whether you're a photographer, painter, writer... or an admirer of the arts, doesn't matter. Even if you don't live in Alberta, this book will make you wish you did! I've yet to meet Daryl, but judging from his candor, humour, and insightful observations, you can tell he's an artist well worth getting to know. He has set foot on all seven continents, documenting the unique and extra-ordinary with his camera gear. In his words...


"I hold the bragging rights to setting foot on and photographing on all seven continents. From penguin colonies surrounded by glaciers in Antartica to aromatic fields of lavender in Provence, France; from the dragon's teeth limestone mountains of Guilin, China to the arid, red Nullarbor Plain of the Australian outback; and from the wind-tortured mountains of Patagonia in South America to mass wildlife migrations on the Serengeti Plain of Africa -- I've seen and photographed all these things and so many more. However, I capture my best photographs in the meadows, mountains, and coulees of Alberta."

Starting with the outside: the hard bound book has a light-brown suede accent on the left side, with the title below a rustic photo of a bison skull, all on a paste-on that does away with the need for a jacket. The designer was thinking outside the box here. The calligraphic text flourishes of the title meld into the photo composition... why didn't I think of that?!? (grin). Outstanding graphic artwork.

To the inside. This is my first exposure to Daryl Benson's work in this much detail, so I can't speak for his other publications. But this one in particular is an outstanding and beautiful depiction of his subject. Thematically, he weaves colour, sepia, and black and white images seamlessly into the four seasons, all punctuated with artfully written stories and anecdotes. Again, hats off to the graphic designer - the oxymoron "rustic elegance" comes to mind. The colour, font, and layout all work together not to distract, but rather enhance Daryl's work. A great collaboration.

The photographs themselves stand out from the stock they are printed on in a means I have never seen before in such a publication. They have a brilliance, sheen and colour saturation that is quite outstanding - literally. The pictures jump off the page. As you would imagine, the actual photographic content is primarily Alberta landscapes, with the very occasional introduction of a person here and there. Then there's the odd, visually comedic hand or foot... you have to see it for yourself!

The paper stock itself has been treated with a finish best described as reflective satin; it also captures light in an elegant and beautiful manner. The text pages are printed with a buff coloured rustic motif that is ever so slightly "aged" around the edges. An understated, tasteful, and beautiful backdrop for the author's stories, wit, and humour.

Daryl is truly speaking from his heart through both text and photographic expression. His strong visual compositions speak of a seasoned, mature artist who obviously loves sharing his view of the world. We're all better off for it, so do what I did: take the time to read all the texts and absorb this guided tour into the beauty that surrounds us.

This last quote from his book spoke volumes to me as a photographer. Maybe you can relate too...


"Sometime early in our middle years we begin to understand the concept of mortality. It is at this time in our lives that we start following a stronger desire, whether consciously or not, to create something that will last beyond our own, all too brief, lives and that may stand as an example that we once lived, had ideas and were special in some way."



For some good de-stressing therapy, buy this book, absorb it's every detail, and let yourself be carried away...

You can get a copy of this book at www.amazon.com. All quotes in this article used with permission by the author.



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Jim Hutchison is a part time photographer who resides in Burnstown, Ontario with his wife Moira.