The Circle of Life

The Circle of Life - Rituals from the Human Family Album is a gorgeous, large format, full color book. Within its pages the book celebrates the many rites of passage that we all share. The book covers birth, adolescence, marriage, aging, and finally death. It can be stunning to see how cultures from wildly different parts of the world often share similar symbolism in their ceremonies.

The Circle of Life - Rituals from the Human Family Album Some of the photos are movingly beautiful, such as several of the wedding images. Others can be upsetting or thought provoking. Both men and women are shown being circumcised. In one culture, little children share a marijuana joint. In another, female gang members "beat up" on a new initiate.

Not all cultures have a western view of clothing. It's important for those who are uncomfortable with this idea know that there are a number of pictures in here which feature full nudity of men, women, and children. The images are always respectful and in context.

There's a wealth of supplemental information provided with each photo. For example, a reader preparing to get married might delve in contentment in all the photos of how brides prepare for their marriage in various parts of the world. Perhaps she might want to incorporate one of the ceremonial aspects in her own celebration. We also learn about historical roots - for example that Roman brides wore a red veil over her entire body.

The book provides a map in the back so the reader can see exactly where each image was taken.

Is there any issues here? Again, I'm sure some readers will be made uncomfortable by some of the images shown - for example the young woman screaming while she is being circumcised. But this is a very real ceremony that goes on every day in certain parts of the world. The book covers the range of human experience, so we see what is going on and get a sense of the world's range.

I do wish that the book didn't present images that crossed through the binding / spine of the book. That is, some images are presented with part on the left side and part on the right side, with the image "dipping into" the binding area. I'd much rather see the image smaller and be able to see it fully without any impediment.

Highly recommended, both for people interested in photography that presents powerful images, as well as people interested in the stages of life being presented.

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