Competition Judge: David Liittschwager
David Liittschwager is a freelance photographer who grew up in Eugene, Oregon. Between 1983 and 1986, he worked as an assistant to Richard Avedon in New York City. After working in advertising, he turned his skills to portraiture with an emphasis on natural history subjects. Liittschwager is now a contributing photographer to National Geographic, Scientific American, Audubon and other magazines. A recent project, One Cubic Foot is being published as a large format book by the University of Chicago Press. In 2008 he collaborated with Alice Waters on the Edible Schoolyard book. In 2002 he produced Skulls and X-Ray Ichthyology: The Structure of Fishes for the California Academy of Sciences. Liittschwager’s earlier books include Archipelago, Remains of a Rainbow, Witness and Here Today.
One Cubic Foot: Portraits of Biodiversity
One cubic foot of Earth may seem a minuscule patch of the globe, yet a cubic foot can throb with life, from eye-catching flora and fauna to tiny creatures prolific and beautiful beyond imagining. Photogra- pher David Liittschwager has trained his camera
on small worlds before and captured their infinite elegance. In this book, he travels to different habitats across the planet—all of them rich with a diversity of plants and animals—to take a look at the riotous life contained in one cubic foot of Earth.
In each location, Liittschwager sets down a metal cube that frames the space then, working with local scientists, he records what moves through the cube’s habitat over the course of a normal day and night. Next he photographs the cube setting and begins individual portraits of its plant life and its flying, creeping, crawling creatures—anything visible to the naked eye, no matter how small.
A hundred feet up in the cloud forest canopy of Monte Verde, Costa Rica, he takes his cube to a flourishing garden of ferns, orchids, and other epi- phytes, home to brilliantly plumed birds and an army of insects. In the tropical waters off Moorea, French Polynesia, he shoots one cubic foot at the top of a coral reef, where ocean currents and churning surf provide a dynamic environment for a thousand tiny worms, snails, crabs, and other creatures, which occupy niches in the finger coral and its rubble is if they were living in a miniature skyscraper. In New York’s Cen- tral Park, he finds an undisturbed patch of deciduous forest, where life in the soil and leaf litter is as ram- bunctious and colorful as life in the city itself. On the Duck River in Tennessee he shoots the parade of fish, mussels, snails, crustaceans, insects, and worms that inhabit this fantastically rich freshwater world. In the Fynbos, the coastal belt of the South African cape, he captures the stunning diversity of flora—more than 25 different species of plants in one cubic foot. In all, he covers six habitats, each introduced by an eyewit- ness essay that celebrates and explains its uniqueness.
Both a stunning record and a visual feast of planetary diversity, A World in One Cubic Foot is also a subtle reminder of the elegance, fragility, and feistiness of life on Earth.
““When you thrust a shovel into the soil or tear off a piece of coral, you are, godlike, cutting through an entire world. You have crossed a hidden frontier known to very few. Immediately close at hand, around and beneath our feet, lies the least explored part of the planet’s surface. It is also the most vital place on Earth for human existence.” —E. O. Wilson”