Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Beauty and the Beast:, by Arnold Arluke and Robert Bogdon

Beauty and the Beast: Human-Animal Relations as Revealed inPost card photography was a very popular hobby and art form at one time.  While many different types of images were captured, one of the most common things revealed in these types of photos was the complex variety of relationships between humans and animals.  Whether these animals were pets, sources of food and nutrition, forms of transportation or labor, all interacted with humans in some way, and these interactions were documented through a plethora of post card photographs.  This book looks at the different natures of the relationships we held with animals in the early part of the 20th century.

This book was quite different from anything I had ever read, and a great departure from the types of books I typically review.  I can easily see this book being used as a text book, though I am not sure what type of class would be structured around such a topic.  I had never really thought of all the different roles animals and people played in each others lives, particularly in the past, until I read this book, and the accompanying photographs were simply stunning.  This was a time that was crucial to the way animals and animal treatment was perceived, and a lot of what happened in the early 1900s was a precursor to the groups we see today, like PETA, ASPCA, and Humane Societies.  It was fascinating to read about this, and see the history come alive on the page.

I am really glad I stepped out of my comfort zone with this book, but I will warn readers, this is not a light or short read.  It took me some time to get through the book because it is quite scholarly, and having been out of school for some time, my scholarly reading muscles were a little weak (from too many novels perhaps).  But just like a couch potato can get back in shape, so can a scholarly mind, and this is a great book to help anyone with an interest in history and/or animals or photography expand their knowledge base in a highly organized, soundly researched way.

A review copy of this book was provided courtesy of NetGalley.