Picks and Pans Review: What the Traveller Saw

UPDATED 01/22/1990 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 01/22/1990 at 01:00 AM EST

by Eric Newby

In his introduction, Newby, an English travel writer, notes that photography is "inimical to travelers and to travel." He even makes a good case for the argument, suggesting some travelers become so obsessed with taking pictures they never really look at what they're photographing.

This book, however, puts a serious dent in his argument, including striking black and white photographs he has taken over the last 51 years, even while writing 14 books—including Before the Mast in a Windjammer, Love and War in the Apennines and A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush—and serving for 10 of those years as travel editor of London's Observer.

He complements the photographs with substantial essays, writing, for instance, that "it was the thought of all the people, many of them still alive, who had lived in Ireland but no longer did so, that gave the country its unique feeling of loneliness."

In this case, though, it's Newby's photographic images that are the more memorable, from the nearly abstract architecture of the rooftops of the Imperial Harem in Turkey's Topkapi, to an intimate close-up of two old Italian farmers.

Many of the photographs were taken during Newby's stint at the Observer, from 1963 to 1973, and thus commemorate in many cases, he says, "a world that has changed beyond all recognition." It's to everybody's good fortune that he has done such a conscientious job of recording at least the before part of those changes. (Viking, $30)

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