Photographs by Guido Mocafico. Edited by Patrick Remy. Essays by Jacqueline Goy, Ivan Ineich and Christine Rollard.
Steidl, Gottingen, 2006. 334 pp., 131 color illustrations, 9½x14¾”.
I try to avoid at all cost the subject matter of this imposing four-volume book. These creatures have a notorious reputation that precedes them. It’s not that I have a particular phobia against them or nightmares about them; I just feel better when they are not around. Yet once you pull these volumes out of the slipcase, there is a magical world inside. The photographs are so lush, the colors so vibrant, and the detail so defined that I overcame my fear to study the nuances and subtle variations of the jellyfish, snakes, and tarantulas. Every translucent tentacle can be examined, every snake scale can be admired, and every spider hair counted. I felt like I was holding onto an original manuscript by an early scientific explorer that catalogues the most mysterious species of the world. Mocafico, who specializes in high-end architectural and commercial still-life work has lit his unlikely subjects like Harry Winston jewels. The black glossy pages serve only to enhance the vivid colors. Each of the three volumes, devoted to one of the types of animals, contains just photographs. The fourth, simply bound with a black string, compiles the scientific entries. The silent and unspoken similarity between all of these creatures is their deadly poisonous potential. Venenum has a paralyzing effect. – Larissa Leclair
Originally published in the Photo-eye Booklist, Summer 2006.