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