Photo Book Review: “Our National Monuments” by QT Luong

Photo of Our National Monuments typesetting cover

One of my favorite ways to enjoy and learn well-nigh nature photography is through printed books and over the years, I have piled a large, diverse collection. Most of the books on my bookshelf fit nicely into a single category: portfolio, planning resource, reference, cultural/natural history, or photography education.

Sometimes a typesetting might fit into two of these categories, but it is rare to find a publication that is all of these things in a single volume. Because they are both so comprehensive and unzip a level of excellence in each of these areas, Our National Monuments: America’s Hidden Gems and Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey through America’s National Parks, both by QT Luong, are essential books for any photographer who values and visits public lands in the United States.

Although I own and value both books, this review is focused on Our National Monuments. I bought Our National Monuments during the pre-order phase and when I received it, I flipped through the photos and read some of the essays introducing each national monument.

My initial impression was quite positive: trappy printing on substantial paper, a comprehensive narrative well-nigh each monument, and in-depth photographic coverage to bring the text to life. I recently used Our National Monuments to help plan a future photography trip and this wits with the typesetting made me fathom it plane more.

Starting with a foreword written by former Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and an in-depth introduction tent the origin of national monuments withal with an overview of the conservation issues facing these lands, the rest of the typesetting is organized by state. Within each state, individual chapters focus on one national monument (the typesetting covers twenty-seven national monuments in total).

Photo of a photo book

Each installment opens with a narrative, usually written by a nonprofit organization that supports and advocates for each park, that represents the perspective of those closest to the monument and offers context well-nigh the landscape. A comprehensive series of full-page photos from virtually each national monument follows, tent the major highlights, some lesser-known spots, and increasingly intimate views.

After the photos, Luong provides reference information including a helpful overview map, orientation information, an overview of the park’s seasons, and a discussion well-nigh each of the preceding photographs.

When taken separately, each of these chapters provides an spanking-new introduction to each monument: the local perspective, a sense of the conservation issues, context for the area’s geography, natural and cultural history, useful trip planning resources, and ideas for how a photography trip might work. When taken together, Our National Monuments is an incredible victory as a work providing inspiration, information, and sponsorship in a single volume.

Photo of photo book

Writing well-nigh public lands in the United States is a complicated endeavor right now. With the COVID pandemic encouraging increasingly people to get outside, chronic underfunding for federal parks and public lands, ever-changing public policy, and social media making information much increasingly accessible, places like national parks, monuments, and other federal lands are under a lot of pressure.

With these trends in mind, the tendency among conservation-minded nature photographers seems to be to protect information instead of sharing it, with the hope of keeping some places off the tamed path. With Our National Monuments, Luong has chosen a variegated approach.

Photo of photo book

By providing context well-nigh each place, information well-nigh the very real threats to some of these landscapes and showing significant reverence for each place through both the writing and the photographs, this typesetting has the potential to inspire a much deeper appreciation for these relatively unknown public lands. Plane if this typesetting will bring increasingly visitors to some of these places, it takes a responsible, respectful tideway to educating increasingly people well-nigh the importance of America’s national monuments and hopefully helps build a bigger, increasingly invested constituency for protecting special places wideness the United States.

For all these reasons, I highly recommend Our National Monuments as an essential part of any photography typesetting collection.

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