From Library Journal
Great portraits not only expose the inner workings of the subject but also create an emotional resonance that elicits an association for the viewer. Here, Schels encounters another level of complexity because his subjects are animals, seldom viewed as individuals in their own right. Schels's sophisticated black-and-white studio portraits consist of head shots of earnest and supple cats, quirky and noble dogs, observant sheep, stern roosters, and a few exotica, including a gawky kangaroo, a ruggedly etched elephant, and a resplendent golden eagle. Simply placed and directly viewed, the faces of these animals are intricate, communicative, highly personable, and surprisingly unique. Overall, the animals seem at ease and aware, often even participatory. From the reflective gaze of a chimpanzee to the scrutiny of a house cat, Schels settles for none of the more common sentimental and sugary ideas of these animals but seeks and repeatedly finds undeniable and frequently comical evidence of their distinctive personalities and universal traits. This book is recommended for large public libraries and, though not intended as such, will also make a delightful addition to well-endowed children's collections. Debora Miller, Minneapolis
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
In the brief afterword to this album, German photographer Schels, a fine portraitist, confesses what may seem a strange orientation to the art: "For my portraits of people, I wanted 'animal-like' faces without poses and superfluous smiles, without the implied question: 'How do I look?'" Which attitude accounts, perhaps, for the stunning quality of his black-and-white images of animals' faces, all presented, proper portrait-wise, against black or white backdrops. Although they can't smile, animals don't hide their feelings, Schels opines, and "that is why we sometimes think we recognize a carefully hidden part of our own inner selves in an animal's expression." Dunno about inner selves, but the camel looks like a bully, the bear looks like a bishop, and the pigs all look like city councilmen. Most impressive is the pictures' presentational force, thanks to which it is possible to stare enrapt at the elephant's head and ear that, with every wrinkle and texture of skin ruthlessly exposed, resemble nothing so much as a relief map of an alternative Africa. Ray OlsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved