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When you examine the literature and bibliography on photo books, it becomes evident that during the early Twentieth Century, the emphasis was on pictures taken in the immediate surroundings. The Nineteenth Century saw photographers travel to Egypt and India to record how other people lived, and in what surroundings their lives took place.

These types of photo books, or books with photographs, belong to the incunabula of photographic history. Going through the Open Book resource, you will find a lot of photo books covering the social life of the Twentieth Century, war and art or nudes, but few books covering anthropology.

The best photo book example of having anthropology as a topic is the appearance in 1907 of Edward S. Curtis’s twenty volumes on the American Indians. In Europe, travelers and photographers went to Africa, but the books are hard to find, and usually cover an entire trip into more than one country. In the 1950’s, we see a change in attitude, when American photographers started to travel to most Latin American countries and to the Amazon.

So here is one of those seminal, somewhat forgotten photo books from the fifties. Originally published in Danish in 1958, and hard to find with an immaculate dust jacket!

kalahari-8The author, a Danish adventurer and anthropologist, Jens Bjerre lived for six months in the 1950’s with indigenous tribes in the Kalahari Desert. The region covers 350,000 square miles overlapping in the three countries of Botswana, South Africa and Namibia. The outstanding result was a book published in 1960 in English, simply titled Kalahari.

kalahari-4kalahari-3kalahari-6Absolutely stunning!