More About the Author
"...might change the way you think about photography!" ~The New York Times
Michael Poliza has never been a man to do things by half measures. That might sound like a cliché, but his life is certainly not. His entire track record shows somebody who jumps into projects with both feet, immersing himself completely in the subject matter and fast becoming seen as a leader in whatever field he chooses to focus. 'Google' his name now and you'll find repeated reference to his incredibly successful books. Yet just dig a little deeper, and you'll find that a few years ago his name was in lights in the business world - and before that on the television screen.
Michael just grins when somebody mentions he's lived three lives. To an outsider, the three might seem highly divergent. But look more closely and they have very similar themes, all shaped by his uncanny ability to detect a new direction in its early phases, and then to work unstoppably in mastering the subject matter and pushing the boundaries of what is deemed possible or probable.
The themes the three lives have in common are media and electronic gadgets. This man has lived the digital age to the full.
So the first of Michael's lives was in television. He modestly tells the story of somebody wanting to woo his older sister and casting her baby brother in a television role. Whatever the start, Michael was obviously both talented and hardworking. By the time he was a teenager, he was as well known as any actor could possibly be in the Germany of that time, and appeared in more than 100 television shows and films.
His second incarnation was as a businessman. In the USA, where he spent time as an exchange student, Michael first caught a glimpse of quite how digital the future would be. Returning to Germany, he petitioned IBM to grant him an agency, despite his youth. His relentlessness paid off, and the young man became a slave to his pager and the needs of his clients, continuing to build an impressive business in the IT sector.
In 1997 he began his third life focusing on digital media. Selling his companies for a small fortune in stock, he had planned to buy a yacht and sail around the world. But then the dot.com crash happened, and suddenly IT stocks plummeted in value - today, Michael jokes about how he watched the yacht he intended to build get shorter by a foot every day. Not being a man to give up, he hatched a grand plan: the Millennium Starship voyage. Journalists and photographers would be invited to join him on board to document the state of the world's wild locations at the turn of the millennium. Sponsors like SONY, Microsoft, Deutsche Telekom, Olympus and the WWF helped to foot the bill, with the output broadcast daily on the Internet and followed by millions of people around the world - an unheard of achievement in those early digital days. STERN Magazine was the main media partner, publishing many features on the voyage.
And that's where Michael's publishing experience began, with the book of the voyage quickly becoming a bestseller of more than 50,000 copies. True to his IT roots and passions, he had already embraced digital photography, and his Starship book was the very first coffee table book to feature more than 50% digital content.
The voyage over, Michael sold the boat and was headed to Madagascar when he stopped by South Africa's 'Mother City' of Cape Town and promptly lost his heart to her. He built a house on the Atlantic Seaboard, using this as a base for countless visits to the nature reserves of Southern Africa. Much of this was thanks to a friendship with Wilderness Safaris, who gave him freedom of access in return for the use of his images - a truly symbiotic relationship.
The beautiful body of work that quickly developed was crying out to be shown to the rest of the world, and that's where publisher Hendrik teNeues came in. He quickly realized the value of his old friend's content, and the book AFRICA was launched to massive acclaim in 2006. "Poliza has taken wildlife and landscape photography to a new level," the Cape Times raved in September 2006. Great Britain's Daily Express was no less unequivocal: "If ever a book could take your breath away, this is the one." ABC's Good Morning America selected it as one of the best coffee table books of that year, with the New York Times acknowledging: "It is unlikely to change the way you think about Africa. But it might change the way you think about photography."
EYES OVER AFRICA followed suit to equal acclaim and success, being named as Book of the Year 2009 in both Germany and the USA. The result of an aerial journey from Michael's birthplace in Hamburg to his new house in Cape Town in his friend Stefan Breuer's helicopter, the book provided a bird's-eye view of the continent, showcasing nature's graphics and man's impact in surprising and powerful ways.
Finally done with the heat of Africa, Michael found himself focused on the world's cooler climes: Antarctica and the Arctic. The resultant ANTARCTIC, published in 2009, is a touching and opulent coffee table book, which insightfully portrays the beauty and fragility of polar life.
ANTARCTIC was a milestone in Michael's life for another reason: it took his eyes off Africa, and after finishing his work on the polar regions, he chose to return to Hamburg as his base, where he opened his own gallery. Not only did this provide a new headquarters for the Michael Poliza Photography enterprise, but it also offered opportunities to revive old friendships and associations, and in December 2009 he was named as an ambassador of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
The intent all along had been to photograph Australia next, but Michael could not shake off his love of Africa. Having seen first-hand how the football World Cup could transform a country, he could not miss the opportunity to celebrate the first ever World Cup on African soil. So a new plan was quickly hatched: head back to South Africa for just a few months. Australia could wait. There was only one thing for 2010: SOUTH AFRICA.
Update: Michael has published CLASSIC AFRICA and KENYA in 2010 and 2011.