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Eric Meola



COVER STORY

Sweeping sun-scorched vistas . . . technicolor portraits of tribesmen and women . . . majestic wildlife surviving in their jungle and desert environs.
Through the lens of Eric Meola, these images satisfy, provoke, enlighten, and ennoble all that view them.

In the mid-'90s, a confluence of business, professional, and personal factors led Meola-a distinguished, award-winning commercial, editorial, and corporate photographer since the '70s-to take a sabbatical from the advertising world to work on a project that chronicles cultures, ceremonies, and species of wildlife whose survival is in serious jeopardy.

Since that time, Meola has traveled the world doing just that.

The Last Places on Earth
Since embarking on this enterprise, Meola has visited Bali, New Guinea, Africa, Antarctica, Laos, Cambodia, Kathmandu, India, and China. His project, "The Last Places on Earth," has been sponsored by Kodak since 1997, and is scheduled for book publication by Graphis in April 2003. Previews may be viewed on www.lastplaces.com.

Key to the project's success was Meola's careful scheduling and preplanning, his knack for moving the project forward as cost- and time-efficiently as possible.

"To balance this work with my personal life and other considerations like finances, I could only devote a certain percent of my time to it," says Meola. "Also, since some celebrations and festivals I would be covering are only held once a year, timing and scheduling were critical." He made most of his travel arrangements on his own, turning to agencies only for a few targeted venues.

Subscribing to the theory that an inch of prevention is worth a pound of cure, Meola takes every precaution before venturing out.

"I make sure I've had every shot and then some. I stay current with my innoculations, read State Department and CIA information online about countries having civil wars, revolts, and so on."

He also travels with a well- stocked "medicine cabinet," ready to administer first aid for cuts or illness at a moment's notice. Mindful of the increasingly threatening world situation these days, Meola says, "Things have definitely gotten worse, but it doesn't mean you can't travel. There have always been situations where you go and do what you came for, not realizing all the while the danger you were in until you're out of it.

"During my 1997 trip to Niger, West Africa, for this project, my driver was shot to death. We were 100 miles from the nearest road. When he went to get water, he was ambushed. They robbed him and took his vehicle."

These dangers are a big reason he usually travels solo. While he's cautious and may know how best to avoid them, someone less experienced may not be so aware.

Meola learned long ago that when shooting tribal cultures, you'll get the best results when you visit during annual festivals, fairs, and ceremonies.

"When there's an event going on, people are more relaxed, less aware of my presence, less likely to feel threatened or fearful of an outsider with a camera."

For this reason, most of the images Meola shot for the book—including those featured in this article—were taken during such special events.

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