A book gives you the intimacy of the images, the wall gives you the grandeur of the stuff, and you can’t usually get both at the same time. ~Minor White
I write this post hoping you will not consider it as a veiled promotion. It is not meant as such. I feel compelled to pay homage to a truly remarkable work by a truly remarkable person: my friend, QT (Tuan) Luong.
A few weeks ago Tuan sent me a copy of his newly-published book, Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks. I knew this book was in the works but I did not expect it to be quite so impressive, and maybe I should have. It is not only a beautiful book but also the culmination of a dream and a life’s work.
I was introduced to Tuan as the founder of the venerable Large Format Photography forum, more years ago than I’d care to estimate. The forum proved an invaluable resource to me, and I’m sure to many others, in the years when the view camera was my photographic mainstay. Moreover, and unknown to Tuan, he was also the first person I knew who successfully left an IT career in favor of becoming a full-time landscape photographer—a move I long wished to make (and ultimately did).
In the course of nearly two decades I watched Tuan’s passion for the National Parks evolve into not only a successful business but also a personal calling. His website, Terra Galleria, was my go-to place to find some of the best images from these places, captured and presented with exquisite attention to composition and technique, and (at the time) on large 5×7 film. Tuan set out to photograph all 57 (at the time) parks using a 5×7 camera—a monumental project that he ultimately completed. I was not alone in noticing this accomplishment. Among other recognition, Tuan was featured in Ken Burns’ popular series: The National Parks, America’s Best Idea.
When I finally got to meet Tuan, I realized another thing: how different and more interesting he was in person from the way I imagined him to be. In a sense we shared the kinship of the introverted. We shared a quiet conversation, although it was obvious we shared a great love for photography and for the American landscape, and I feel I gained more respect for his work, knowing more about his life and personality.
I have been an avid collector of coffee-table photography books for some time. I often lamented the decline in their quality and popularity over the years. In particular, I have seen several books on America’s National Parks that were utterly disappointing: poor images made hastily and under uninspired conditions, printed poorly on the cheap. This book is anything but. Just holding it in your hands is enough to impress. It is a thick tome, slightly more than 450 pages in size, covering all 59 current National Parks. More than that, it is absolutely gorgeous: images are composed with great feeling and a sense for light, beautifully detailed and processed, and printed to a very high standard. Although I have paged through it many times since receiving it, I still feel a little pinch of anticipation inside each time I pick it up.
Thank you, Tuan, for such a remarkable achievement, and congratulations on such a fitting testament to your life’s work.
Disclaimer: This review was unsolicited, and I do not have any financial interest whatsoever in the book. I believe it deserves highlighting as a beautiful body of work and as a testament to the tenacity and dedication of a great photographer.